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A yearlong study is underway by Indianapolis-based urban design firm Rundell Ernstberger Associates to determine how Clarksville can make the best use of more than 60 acres of mostly commercial corridors as sales shift to online stores. 

CLARKSVILLE — Public input is being sought as part of a yearlong study into the future of Clarksville's central district.

The community is invited to a workshop to discuss potential plans for the 3C Master Plan (Catapult Central Clarksville), an endeavor to reimagine the landscape of some central commercial corridors, including Lewis and Clark Parkway, in an age when retail is evolving to more online shopping.

The Jan. 13 session is the start of a four-day information gathering process led by Rundell Ernstberger Associates, the Indianapolis-based urban design firm hired by the town in August. The team also includes AECOM Engineering and CWC Latitudes. Over the course of that week, the team will mine information from focus groups, identify visions, goals and design principals in preparation for a public presentation Feb. 27, according to project information provided by the town.

"I think the council and the redevelopment commission both need input from the community at large, as to what direction we need to go," Clarksville Town Council member John Gilkey said. "The primary focus is going to be on the retailers who are in that area, but we also need input from the community, the people who deal with those retailers through their stores, [to] get their feel on what direction they would like to see that corridor go."

The roughly 660 acres of mostly commercial space involved in the study includes Lewis and Clark Parkway from Providence Way to Interstate 65, Broadway Street from Lewis and Clark Parkway to Woodstock Drive, and Greentree Boulevard from Lewis and Clark Parkway to Blackiston View Drive.

The scope of the project area also includes the roughly 65 acres at the River Falls Mall site, of which the town is finalizing purchase. That property includes empty buildings that once housed businesses such as Toys R Us, and the lot on which a Sonic restaurant once operated.

"Clarksville, like many other communities across the U.S., is experiencing a change in retail trends with the closure of brick-and-mortar stores due to increased online shopping," according to project information.

So far, the consultants have almost finished their research into the existing conditions and market analysis; they'll spend spring and summer on gathering community input, working on design concepts and project funding, with public unveiling of the final plan expected in fall.

"We are still at a very early stage and getting community input," Gilkey said. "The consultants have done some preliminary work, contacting some of the key partners who are going to be impacted by the study, and we are essentially at the starting point now and getting to move forward."

To date, the plan is the largest master plan the town has undertaken since the South Clark Redevelopment Plan was approved in 2016. But the two have unique differences — the south end of town has a lot of residential areas, with some undeveloped land on which to build and unused structures, like the former Colgate building, to renovate.

The 3C Master Plan has some residential areas in it, but is largely a commercial center.

"The south Clark plan is an area that is not presently developed and you pretty much have a clean slate and you need to look at building from the ground up," Gilkey said. "In the 3C corridor, we're dealing with existing businesses, we're dealing with empty box stores and we need to look at what the town can do to facilitate redevelopment of the area.

"We're not going to go in and just totally wipe the slate clean and put something else in," he said. "We're going to work with the people who are there, get a feel for what resources they need, what changes we need to make in infrastructure, and work with the community to build what the retail center and community feel is right for Clarksville."

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at aprile.rickert@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

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