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May 4, 2013

Plans for former Colgate plant uncertain

Clarksville and development group looking to work through long-standing issues

CLARKSVILLE — Plans to redevelop the former Colgate-Palmolive Co. plant have long been in the works.

But according to at least one Clarksville town official, the developers of the site, Boston Development Group, may be reconsidering plans.

The former Colgate plant has been empty since 2007, when the company moved jobs to other facilities in Mexico and Tennessee. Boston Development purchased the 54-acre site in January 2011 and has been working to redevelop it into a mixed-use retail and commercial center using a federal visa program in order to attract foreign investment in the property.

But due to actions by the town of Clarksville, those plans may be up in the air.

“Boston Development Group has indicated ... they are looking whether it’s to their advantage to tear the complex down, if it’s to their tax advantage,” said Clarksville Town Councilman John Gilkey. “It’s their intent to make a decision on the next month or so.”

By removing the buildings on the site, the development company would pay a lower amount in taxes-per-year on the property while it attempts to secure the plans to redevelop the property that has sat stagnant for more than two years. The structures on the Colgate property include the main building of the former Colgate plant, which served as an Indiana State Prison from 1846 to 1921, and the highly visible Colgate clock that sits atop the building.

When contacted by the News and Tribune, Dr. Jayesh Sheth, Boston Development Group managing partner, said he did not have a comment on plans to raze the buildings or if there is a 30-day timeline on a decision. He added that some buildings have been taken down as part of the construction plans, but they were buildings on the periphery of the site and none of those razed were main structures.

“Nothing of any significance,” he said of the buildings that have been torn down.

Sheth added that Boston Development Group is still working with Clarksville to redevelop the property.

“We are working closely with the town,” he said. “We are working to see what buildings can go on the national register or not [and] we are working on a masterplan.”

He said those plans should be presented “very soon.”

Sheth explained the property is part of the national historic district, but the buildings themselves are not on the National Historic Register.

Plans to develop the property, however, have not been halted.

“We have some of the [potential] users visiting today, the companies that are looking to locate in the property,” Sheth said Friday.

He did not offer names for the companies in discussion with Boston Development Group, but said they are technology and health care companies. Last year, the town and developers were trying to court pharmaceutical company Areva to the site. Areva announced in March it was building a new facility in Harrison County.

Gilkey said he feels that plans to redevelop the former Colgate plant site are uncertain.

“I am very concerned about what’s going to happen to that property,” he said. “I consider portions of that site to be very important from the historic perspective of the town.

“I have not been happy with the way the town has pursued working with Boston Development Group to pursue redevelopment of that property,” Gilkey added. “They perceive the town as not working with them. It is to the advantage of the town to facilitate redevelopment.”

The Clarksville Town Council recently gave the go-ahead to threaten fines against the Boston Development Group related to stormwater issues at the former plant. Clarksville officials said that thousands of gallons of stormwater flowed off the property, into the town-owned stormwater system, despite the fact that the Colgate property has its own treatment plant.

The town council agreed to have Clarksville Planning and Zoning Attorney Rebecca Lockard send a letter to the Boston Development Group that demands it cap its lines, and install new sewer lines, so that only wastewater goes into the town’s wastewater treatment plant. If the modifications are not made in 15 days, the maximum fine of $2,500 per day would be issued, Lockard said in a previous report.

Sheth said at the time the decision was made the Boston Development Group is paying for stormwater and wastewater to the town, in addition to paying $50,000 per year to operate its own stormwater plant.

Gilkey was opposed to sending the letter.

In addition to the decision made to send the letter in March, the town of Clarksville had previously filed a two liens against the old Colgate property for nonpayment of stormwater fees. The two liens in 2012 totaled $13,220.

Clarksville Town Councilman and Redevelopment Commission President Bob Popp said that most of the conversation about the former Colgate site has centered around wastewater and stormwater.

The town is exploring the idea of putting a new wastewater line along South Clark Boulevard, which would allow several businesses in the area — including those who could potentially locate at the former Colgate plant — to attach to the line.

“It would probably be in the best interest for everyone to put new lines in there if they’re going to develop it,” Popp said.

He said the most likely scenario would be for the funding to pay for a new line to come out of Tax Increment Finance funds. But before the town agrees to put in a new line, it would need in writing that the site is going to be developed and have many of its lingering questions answered, Popp said.

“Anything that occurs there is a concern,” he said. “It still has tremendous potential, but it still has a lot of challenges.”

Rick Dickman, who is Clarksville’s former redevelopment director and is now working as a consultant for the Boston Development Group, said he was not at liberty to talk about the status of the project.

However, he said, “the town of Clarksville is working to resolve some issues that have been long-standing with the property.”

“As far as I know, they [Boston Development Group] are very committed to developing that site,” Dickman added.

Calls made to town Redevelopment Director Nick Lawrence were not returned as of press time.

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