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May 13, 2014

Banking on growth: Bank first retail site at River Ridge; more on the way nearby

New Washington State Bank signs lease at commerce center

JEFFERSONVILLE — Some of the most common questions that come from the 6,000 or so employees who work at River Ridge Commerce Center are: where can they can grab lunch or make a quick cash withdraw from an ATM, said Paul Wheatley, marketing and finance director for River Ridge.

“From River Ridge’s perspective, our tenants are wanting these types of critical amenities,” Wheatley said.

New Washington State Bank will be the first answer to this question as it signed a lease to open its ninth branch on River Ridge’s site last week. The local bank is submitting applications for approval from bank regulators for the location, which will bring five to seven new jobs. Meanwhile, developers are eyeing nearby vacant lots for retail businesses off-site.

New Washington Executive Vice President Jessica Carroll said that River Ridge’s growth, coupled with the need for a bank in between Jeffersonville and Charlestown, drew the bank to the commerce center.

“We have customers in both areas already, and I can see it being a good location for them to stop in and use an ATM or make a deposit on the way home from work or going to work,” Carroll said.

The bank is the first retail business at the future River Ridge Retail Center along Patrol Road. The 3,000-square-foot facility will offer full-service banking with two drive-thru lanes and an ATM. River Ridge is contracting Koetter Construction Co., which will finish work on the bank at the end of this year.

Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall said he has been happy with New Washington’s partnership with Charlestown and foresees the bank being able to partner with future businesses at River Ridge.

“So for them to be expanding here, we think that’s a great move on their part,” Hall said.

Hall said businesses large and small in the area will be aided by the bank, as the financial institution has been a good partner for his city.

Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said 10 years ago, a bank locating in that spot would seem out of place.

“I grew up around here in Jeff, played golf down here at Twilight Golf Course when I was a kid,” Moore said. “And I used to think I was going out in the middle of nowhere.

“... But now you drive by and you think, ‘Where’s the banks? Where’s the restaurants?’”

Bringing in retail businesses such as New Washington bank also helps attract potential commercial business to River Ridge.

“It’s exciting, and it helps in our attraction and marketing efforts,” Wheatley said.

Of its 6,000 acres, River Ridge has only developed about 10 percent, but it’s continuing to grow.

“As everybody can see, as you drive up and down the road, we’ve got a lot of activity going on here right now. There’s lots of dirt being turned out here,” Wheatley said. “ ... As you kind of extrapolate that out over the years, this is going to be a true economic hub.”

MORE ON THE WAY

As River Ridge plans its first retail business, development sites for more future retail stores are popping up along Ind. 62 just south of the commerce center.

Two sites called the East Bridge Center and River Station Shopping Center that are adjacent to one another  will soon be home to new retail businesses. Another larger site just across the street that is in the earlier stages of development — the property is still overgrown with vegetation — also plans to have several independent businesses.

Scott Coots, president of Coots Development Group, said East End Bridge Center will have a 15,000-square-foot inline building, or strip mall, at the rear of the property as well as a 1.3 acre outlot. Some of the retail businesses planned for the center include Dollar General, a hair salon called Roots, and a few restaurants.

“We’re looking to have the shells of both buildings up by Oct. 1,” Coots said, noting that a few businesses want to open by November.

Coots said that retail and commercial growth in the River Ridge area prompted the development of the site.

“We’ve been looking closely at the corridor because of the activity at River Ridge,” he said. “We kind of sat back to see what was going to happen.”

He said he decided the time to buy the property was right — more than 33,000 cars a day pass the site on Ind. 62.

“Everybody’s pushing forward,” he said of business growth.

Brian Lenfert, owner of Lenfert Development — which owns the undeveloped land across Ind. 62 — was drawn to the area for the same reason: “The current growth and future growth happening in that corridor,” he said.

“There is little to no retail development in that area to service the people at River Ridge,” Lenfert said.

The five-acre property is divided into four outlots.

“Everything’s really still early and preliminary at this point,” he said.

Lenfert does know that the development will have individual businesses — some which have already expressed interest — instead of strip centers, much like retail stores along Veterans Parkway, he said.

Construction should start some time this fall.

Jim Marcus, a development partner for the River Station Shopping Center said that three outlots between 1 and 1.5 acres are available for that project, and there is space for a 33,000-square-foot inline building.

He said they are hopeful to start construction by the end of the summer and expect 12 months of work.

Like Lenfert and Coots, Marcus located there because of the commerce center.

“It’s only going to get better with the [east-end] bridge,” he said.

COMPETITION DOWN THE ROAD?

Amenity-based businesses on the horizon — both on River Ridge’s site and around it — could mean competition for surrounding cities.

Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall told the News and Tribune in August that too many retail places in the commerce center could take away business opportunities from Charlestown and other area municipalities.

“I think it should be very minimal the amount of retail that goes inside River Ridge,” Hall said in August. “I think the main thing for the committee is look at the impact of what you put inside River Ridge.

“We’re concerned about developers and retailers, and those that have investments in properties currently.”

He also said Charlestown’s role is to act as a bedroom community.

“I just think we need to be careful about what we do with River Ridge,” he said. “The purpose of it is to develop jobs and it’s been doing that. I think the main thing is to make sure River Ridge grows and it’s a positive influence in all the areas.”

Hall was not available for comment this week for this report.

Despite the mayor’s apprehension, the Charlestown Chamber of Commerce does not see competition with River Ridge. Lee Thomas, Charlestown Chamber of Commerce president, said that’s because the type of retail stores that Charlestown and River Ridge would host are different.

“I think Charlestown will have more of the ‘ma and pa’ stores here,” said Thomas, who works for New Washington State Bank. “You’ll see those types of stores come in here.”

Thomas said that the mayor has expansion plans of his own, such as the new senior care program at St. Catherine Hospital, which is already operating.

“I don’t think [retail on River Ridge] takes away from it at all,” Thomas said. “I think it adds to it.”

The chamber of commerce in Charlestown is one of the only of its kind — most other municipalities work with One Southern Indiana, a business accelerator that services Clark and Floyd counties. While One Southern Indiana works with Charlestown, the city’s chamber of commerce focuses specifically on the business needs of its community.

Thomas said he is excited about the growth at River Ridge.

“It’s kind of like we’re in our own bubble over here,” he said. “It’s really kind of fun to see how this is all grown and how this is all coming together.”

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