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January 4, 2014

BRIDGING THE FUTURE: Examining the Ohio River Bridges Project’s impact on Clarksville

(Continued)

CLARKSVILLE — CAN CLARKSVILLE COMPETE?

Popp’s not the only one who believes that the bridges project could keep Hoosier dollars in-state. According to an economic-impact study on the effect of the bridges project on Southern Indiana communities conducted by Economic Development Research Group for the Indiana Finance Authority and Indiana Department of Transportation, the Veterans Parkway commerce corridor may be adversely impacted by the bridges project, but the money should stay here.

“Importantly, this will not be a net loss of retail sales to Indiana, but rather a potential shift in sales from one area of Indiana to another,” according to the study. “This shift should be somewhat mitigated by increases in population in Floyd and western Clark Counties anticipated as a result of the project. Retailers have some concern that Kentucky customers will choose to shop elsewhere due to the tolls on the Kennedy Bridge north. This impact, however, should be mitigated by the access provided by the Sherman Minton and Clark Memorial Bridges.”

If business owners in Clarksville feel that the bridges project will signal the end to economic prosperity in the town, they aren’t acting like it, Lawrence said.

“I don’t think the bridges project has been a deterrent on our ability to attract business to date,” Lawrence said. “Clarksville is a major retail hub in the region, currently served very well by I-65, and businesses are still filling empty buildings, particularly along Veterans Parkway. Some of the developers I’ve worked with have even said they are using the east-end bridge as an opportunity to reach new markets, and attract retailers that normally wouldn’t have considered Clarksville a fit.”

That makes sense, according to Clarksville land developer Jesse Ballew. He sees Charlestown and Jeffersonville benefitting the most from the bridges project, but sees the project as a net gain for Clarksville.

“People are going to have to have a place to live, a place to eat, buy groceries, buy furniture — I think it’s a rippling effect,” Ballew said.

One area of Clarksville that certainly could stand to benefit from the bridges project is Clark’s Landing, also known as the former Colgate-Palmolive property, near the Ohio River. Because the Clark Memorial Bridge will not be tolled as a result of the bridges project, Clark’s Landing may be poised for growth, said Lawrence and Popp.

Popp noted that congestion might be an issue in the area during the time immediately after the new bridges open, but is hopeful that the increase in traffic will help Clark’s Landing attract tenants.

“It’s going to be a factor, and I think it’ll be a positive factor,” Popp said.  

For Lawrence, planning for change is well underway.

“I do feel that all of the activity could be a catalyst for more development in the Clark’s Landing area,” he said. “We have been planning for the influx of traffic down there, and how to effectively route people.

“I’m hopeful we can adapt to the challenges and embrace the opportunities that come from it.”

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