Craft beer

A bartender pours a beer at The Sovereign in Washington, D.C. 

CLARKSVILLE — The Clarksville Redevelopment Department plans to offer discounted liquor licenses to businesses that locate along the riverfront as a way to attract restaurateurs.

The new incentive is just one of a handful of steps the town's redevelopment commission is taking to encourage commercial growth as part of its South Clarksville Redevelopment Plan.

"We're in the phase now where we're out of the dreaming and planning phase and now we're really trying to get the wheels on the cart, so to speak," Town Councilman A.D. Stonecipher, president of the redevelopment commission, said.

The South Clarksville Redevelopment Plan seeks to capture the town's waterfront assets by revitalizing a 320-acre area for residential and commercial use.

The commission is contracting The Wheatley Group, a Sellersburg firm founded by a River Ridge Commerce Center alumnus, to help establish economic incentives in the area. The contract approved Tuesday is for $20,000.

One of those incentives would be the creation of a Riverfront Development District, which would allow restaurants to apply for a liquor license from the state at a significant rate reduction to $1,000 versus a regular fee as high as $65,000.

The district would encompass just a small footprint in South Clarksville, either three blocks or 1,500 feet from the riverfront (whichever is furthest).

Businesses that locate within the district would also be exempt from a liquor license cap imposed on the area.

"If you don't have an opportunity for them, then they're not going to go in that area," said Nick Lawrence, project lead with The Wheatley Group and former Clarksville Redevelopment director. "It's critical to attracting restaurants, restaurant owners and operators because they're just not going to look at you or they're not going to take the time to track down or purchase a license."

It's why you see so many restaurants on Jeffersonville's and New Albany's riverfronts, Lawrence added.

The Wheatley Group is also tasked with creating a system to offer more tax breaks to businesses, specifically as it relates to preserving historic structures.

Clarksville historically hasn't given many tax cuts to businesses, Lawrence said.

Establishing incentives now is a way to be proactive, he said.

"These tools are already in the toolbox for Jeffersonville and for New Albany," he said. "They're actively using them and taking advantage of them."

Clarksville is able to offer some startup funds to prospective businesses through its forgivable loan program, but the town can only offer so much, Stonecipher said. Being able to offer alternative incentives may keep Clarksville in the game, if the loan fund "isn't as robust" when larger projects begin popping up.

The commission also approved $142,000 to R.W. Moore Engineering and the Lochmueller Group to develop a traffic impact study and master parking plan for South Clarksville.

The firms will collect traffic counts, predict future trends and determine how the town should accommodate these trends. They will also assess demand for parking in specific locations.

"The overall vision for the South Clarksville Redevelopment Plan is just to create a mixed use living space and recreational space to live, work and play," Stonecipher said. " ... The last thing we want is things to get bottlenecked down there because that could be a turn-off for people to come to the south end."

Elizabeth is the Southern Indiana government reporter for the News and Tribune. She is a Louisville, Ky. native and graduate of Western Kentucky University. Follow her on Twitter at @EMBeilman.