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February 16, 2014

BRIDGING THE FUTURE: Examining the Ohio River Bridges impact on Charlestown

CHARLESTOWN — Drew Salamone spends his days preparing slow-smoked ribs and brisket, but in the back of his mind is the prospect of Charlestown undergoing significant growth that will broaden his customer base at Bare Shoulder BBQ restaurant in the city’s downtown square.

Salamone and his brother opened the Cross Street barbecue joint last year, and they are looking forward to the completion of the east-end bridge project and the continued development of River Ridge Commerce Center changing the face of eastern Clark County’s largest community in the next decade.

“From my point of view, it is definitely a positive, bringing more people this way,” Salamone said of the expected growth in the wake of the bridge. “I think it is going to bring a lot of money to the area.”

Business owners, community members and city leaders have already seen Charlestown develop with the recent addition of businesses and increased home construction, and the growth is expected to continue in the shadow of the $763 million east-end bridge project that will connect Prospect, Ky., to Utica by 2016, and the expanding River Ridge Commerce Center on Ind. 62.

Charlestown, with its proximity to River Ridge and being nestled near Ind. 62 at the confluence of Ind. 3 and County Road 403 — not to mention being a short drive from Louisville — holds its fate in its own hands.

“What I see changing ... is that the east-end bridge is going to add the convenience of a new part of the city of Louisville,” said Wendy Dant Chesser, CEO of One Southern Indiana, “and people who decide they want to be close to that or have that accessibility are now going to see Charlestown in a whole new light for what it has to offer.”

POTENTIAL FOR GROWTH

Salamone sees a bright future.

He moved to Charlestown eight months ago from West Lafayette where he was employed by Purdue University. He has been in the restaurant industry since he was 16 years old and recently decided it was time to have his own restaurant.

Salamone said when he and his family opened the business they were betting that the east-end bridge project and River Ridge would eventually have a positive affect on the restaurant.

“We knew it was coming when we picked this spot,” he said. “We also knew it would be a few years out. Even in Charlestown, we were looking at a few different locations, but we chose to be closer to [Ind.] 62 because that is kind of where the growth is happening.”

Salamone said he thinks Charlestown will become an outer suburb of Louisville that will be appealing to those looking for a semi-rural home.

“You have a lot of people who don’t want to live in a packed city who will move out this way. You get a little more space. You get a little more land,” he said. “You get a better value, and it’s a nice, quiet area.”

Several doors down from Bare Shoulder BBQ, business owner Melissa DuVall offers stylish cuts and hair treatments at Absolutely You Salon. DuVall opened the business four years ago, after working for 26 years at another hair salon on the same block.

She is a proud Charlestown resident excited about the city progressing in the coming years.

“I think we are going to have a lot of growth, a tremendous amount of growth,” DuVall said. “Once they open up that east-end bridge in Louisville, I think it is going to bring a lot of people to this area.”

She said her hair salon has already felt the effects of River Ridge and she welcomes the commercial development and new residents that bridge might bring.

“It is already growing. It is already coming up [Ind.] 62 where the ammunition plant had been, so we are already getting new businesses. There is a lot industry there,” she said. “If you are business owner, you do want to have more people. In order to get more people, you need more people to live here.”

DuVall said she thinks the business interest Charlestown has already begun to attract will result in more people relocating to the city.

“We do need a lot of areas expanded on for those people. I think it will make for a better housing market. With all the factory work that is coming, it will make for more restaurants, more retail,” she said.

What kind of retail is the question.

Dant Chesser said businesses — from major fast-food franchises to mom-and-pop operations — are expected to eventually set up between the bridge and the city, which will add to the amenities and marketability that Charlestown has to offer.

“It is just going to make it easier for people to get to there and add to the potential,” she said of the bridge. “The amount of traffic that is going to be driving by these sites is going to change.”

She said it will likely take time for large franchises to come to Charlestown, but that allows small businesses the opportunity to take advantage of the anticipated development.

“When you are talking about national chains or franchises, so much of what they do is based on population numbers and traffic counts. Charlestown is not going to have an immediate impact in those two categories,” she said. “It will over time, so the question is, who is going to be more interested in seeing that long-term potential? It is typically not going to be the franchises or the nationals chains. It is going to be the folks who are willing to put their stake in the sand and say, ‘I got here first.’

“If I owned one of those companies, Charlestown is a place I would definitely be interested in.”

DuVall said she thinks Charlestown can absorb businesses and new residents without putting its small-town appeal in jeopardy.

“I think it is going to modernize us,” DuVall said of the city’s anticipated growth. “We want to stay little and quaint, but at the same time you can’t become backward and stagnant. We go so far out into the country that I think the quaintness will stay.”

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07_22_Goat_Cutters_w.jpg

A goat looks through the fence at Ray Lawrence Park, where they are currently used to maintain the grass along the steep basin slopes that mowers can't maneuver. The Clarksville Town Council are looking to widen the existing detention basin and reduce the steepness of the slopes to allow mowing and to increase the amount of water moved through the basin.

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