Work In Progress: On the EDGE of Change

Southwest Indiana is on the precipice of visible change. Here’s a look at what’s in store for EDGE of the Lakes, a multi-use property on the outskirts of Boonville, Indiana, featuring lodging, residences, an entertainment center, and more. Read about more projects in the June/July 2024 Evansville Business feature story.

EDGE of the Lakes

On Nov. 3, 2023 – four days before winning re-election – Boonville, Indiana, Mayor Charlie Wyatt announced plans for a new $74 million development for the town of around 6,680 residents, with construction starting in the third quarter of this year and finishing in 2026.

In addition to a 140-room hotel, the development plan for EDGE of the Lakes has an events center, training facilities for police and firefighters, stores and restaurants, housing for veterans, miniature golf, indoor karting, an arcade, an amphitheater, and more.

Wyatt did not disclose how it would be funded. Since November, further details have been difficult to come by, and the mayor has declined to answer follow-up questions from Evansville Business or provide updates.

A May 9 post on the EDGE’s Facebook page stated the location is on 271 acres on Boonville’s west side off Indiana 62, near Walmart. On May 21, another post announced the golf portion of the development would be a greens-only experience operated by a company called Hazards Entertainment.

On April 2, the Boonville City Council approved a resolution creating the Boonville-EDGE Economic Development Area, a mechanism the city would use to build $25 million worth of road and utility infrastructure needed to advance the project.

Information remains scant even to organizations whose mission is to recruit outside investment for Southwestern Indiana. Officials with the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership – the chief economic development agency for Vanderburgh, Warrick, Gibson, and Posey counties – offered little when asked by Evansville Business about EDGE of the Lakes.

“We’re following it,” E-REP CEO Lloyd Winnecke says.

“We’re following it,” echoes Josh Armstrong, E-REP chief economic development officer. “I love big dreams, and I think that it’s a really big, bold vision for Boonville.”

Steve Roelle, executive director of Success Warrick County, an economic development organization that is part of the county’s  government, says he also has few details to offer about the EDGE of the Lakes project.

“There is a lot of excitement and curiosity about this project around Boonville, Warrick County, and beyond,” Roelle told Evansville Business in an emailed statement. “I don’t have any details outside of what has been announced publicly by the City of Boonville or the group working on this project.”

Interview requests submitted to the project’s Facebook page were refused by Jerry Bridges, who is with Heavenly Hands Property Services in Jupiter, Florida. Heavenly Hands is one of the companies Wyatt initially named as being part of the EDGE development.

“We are currently not offering time for interviews, but will be in the quite near future,” Bridges said in a Facebook message to an Evansville Business writer.

Other entities Wyatt identified in early November as being involved are Renco-USA, also of Jupiter; Desimone Consulting Engineering of Miami, Florida; Boyatt Design of Blue Ridge, Georgia; The Center for Institutional Finance of Daytona Beach, Florida; and NASG Solutions of St. Paul, Minnesota.

None of those firms appear to have any prior ties to Southwest Indiana. Wyatt has declined to explain how the connections were made.

Heavenly Hands Property Services describes itself on its website as a “faith-based collaboration of like-minded construction professionals” that works in local communities.

Renco-USA, meanwhile, is a self-described “trailblazer in revolutionizing the construction industry” by using “mineral composite fiber reinforced” materials, as opposed to wood, concrete, and steel. Interlocked units are bonded together to build up to four stories. Its website cites one successful project – a 96-unit apartment complex in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Hazards Entertainment, the project’s golf partner, is a registered corporation based in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

In the May 9 Facebook post, EDGE of the Lakes organizers touted the involvement of one Southwest Indiana firm — Traylor Building, which is a part of Evansville-based Traylor Construction Group — as construction managers.

The post quotes Pete Giannini, Director of Business Development with Traylor Building, as saying the company “(looks) forward to the opportunity to grow and develop Boonville and Southwest Indiana.”

Giannini tells Evansville Business that officials with the Boonville project reached out to Traylor Building about becoming involved as a contractor.

“We don’t have all the details, it’s preliminary at this point,” Giannini says. “But we are always excited to build in this area. Our business is to build projects.”

Some Southwest Indiana officials were invited to a meeting about the development April 18 at Boonville’s Funxion Events, and photos of the gathering circulated on social media. But those involved in the project took no questions from the audience, Evansville Business was told by individuals who were present.

One person who was photographed making remarks at the gathering is Teresa Shanks. In the early 2000s, Shanks led a failed effort to build an aquarium, IMAX theater, and children’s museum in Evansville.

That project received extensive media attention but was plagued by questions about its financing and credibility, many of which were raised in a July/August 2003 Evansville Living article. Shanks — then known as Teresa Thuerbach — told the magazine that entities whom she declined to name had pledged $4 million to the Evansville project. That funding and the identity of its donors never surfaced.

Shanks and her organization also publicized a lengthy list of affiliations in the aquarium proposal. But some of the entities that Shanks claimed were involved in the project told Evansville Living in 2003 they knew little about it and were surprised to be named as affiliates.

The extent of Shanks’ participation in the EDGE of the Lakes project is not clear. Efforts to reach her were not successful, and Evansville Business received a letter from a Florida attorney in response to its inquiries about Shanks’ involvement. (Read the full letter below.)

“At the end of the day, this will be an open book,” writes the attorney, Michael Ryan.

Several area state lawmakers were photographed attending the April 18 informational gathering. Sen. Vaneta Becker, a Republican whose district includes Boonville, says general concepts for the EDGE development were shown at the gathering, but “they didn’t get into a lot of details” about how it would be paid for.

“If they can get it done, it would be exciting for Boonville, the county, and the region,” Becker said in late May, but “I just don’t know about the funding.”

Becker then suggested Evansville Business direct questions about the development to the same person who introduced it back on Nov. 3 – Boonville Mayor Charlie Wyatt.


Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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