CLARKSVILLE — The Clarksville Redevelopment Commission has announced plans to purchase 65 acres of land at the former River Falls Mall, something town leaders say will be an investment in long-term economic growth while also alleviating flooding in the area.
According to a video of Tuesday's redevelopment meeting posted on Facebook by a resident and Clarksville Town Council candidate, the commission discussed the purchase of land at Greentree Boulevard between Woodstock Drive and Lewis and Clark Parkway for $5 million. The property is assessed at more than $11 million, town officials said.
"This will be a joint partnership ... to bring new life to the shopping center," Clarksville Redevelopment Director Dylan Fisher said during the meeting.
The mall, which opened in 1990, stopped operating as a traditional indoor shopping mall more than a decade ago. Bass Pro Shops is currently its largest tenant, and Clarksville officials say there are no plans to close it. The purchase includes the vacant former Dillards building and the Sonic restaurant property.
Clarksville Redevelopment Commission President and town council member A.D. Stonecipher said the deal will help ensure Clarksville can have more say in the development process.
"We've learned our lesson through the Southern Clarksville Redevelopment Plan that he who owns the land controls the land," he said. "And, unfortunately, a lot of the landowners want to hold the taxpayers hostage, and we are paying more for land than actual infrastructure projects."
The purchase has been in negotiations for more than a year, with the sale expected to close this fall. Stonecipher said the land purchase is in anticipation of upcoming master plans for the Lewis and Clark and Broadway districts.
The commission said the town should stay away from big-box retail stores that have historically driven Clarksville's economy, such as the now-shuttered Sears which was formerly in the Greentree Mall, and instead focus on the future of online retail sales. Part of the plans for the area include the possibility of two large, regional retail centers.
The commission is sorting through a pool of national candidates sought to help implement the redevelopment master plans. plans.
The pool of potential consultants is down to eight, and is expected to be chosen and hired before fall. This team will help lead the town through a public planning process estimated to last around a year before work begins.
Commission and town council member Paul Fetter said the purchase will allow for more control over what becomes of the property.
"It would allow the Town of Clarksville to control the project rather than letting a depreciating asset [be purchased] by someone who's just trying to buy something because it's cheap and then letting the property sit vacant," he said.
Fisher said the project will include addressing a decades-old issue with flooding in the nearby Lincoln Park neighborhood. The commission plans to build a regional stormwater detention basin on 6.5 acres included in the property purchase, which will coincide with other stormwater main upgrades planned for this year in that area.
"We have residents that have to call in sick to work because their car can't get out of the driveway," Fisher said. "And it's not been that way for two years; it's been that way for 20 years."