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Clarksville officials want to see movement in redevelopment of former Colgate plant

The former Colgate plant in Clarksville is a red brick building with a huge clock on top. It's an iconic landmark that many know the property for.
Aprile Rickert
The owner of the former Colgate-Palmolive property in Clarksville is expected to present more information on development plans to the town in the coming weeks. The town filed a complaint in court in March to take the property by eminent domain.

The owner of the former Colgate-Palmolive plant in Clarksville is expected to present more information on a redevelopment proposal at the site soon. The town wants the property preserved and earlier this year, filed to take ownership by eminent domain.

Mediation in a federal eminent domain case involving the former Colgate-Palmolive property in Clarksville has been postponed by several months, but there could still be discussions around redevelopment in the meantime.

Last June, the Clarksville Town Council voted unanimously to move forward with condemning the former plant – which was initially built as a state prison – in an attempt to preserve the site’s historical significance.

Board members said in a joint statement released then that the property, known for its giant clock, had been degrading for more than a decade, becoming more “dilapidated and blighted with each passing year,” despite redevelopment discussions between the town and the property owner.

Earlier this year, attorneys filed a complaint in state court seeking to take the property, after owner Clarks Landing Enterprise Investments LLC did not accept the town’s $6 million purchase offer.

Attorneys for Clarks Landing argue the offer wasn’t made in good faith, and that the owner is still moving forward with redevelopment plans. In 2019, town leaders approved a master plan with Clarks Landing for redevelopment of the site.

The case has since been transferred to federal court, and the parties — Including the Colgate-Palmolive Company for its interest in the iconic clock — were scheduled to meet for mediation early next month.

That’s now been rescheduled for Nov. 27, and according to a recent joint report, it comes “with the expectation that in the coming weeks, Clarks Landing would present the Town with additional information reflecting its proposed project for Building No. 4 and proposed financing for that project so that the Town could consider the possibility of TIF financing or similar assistance,” according to court documents.

The 2019 development plan includes turning one building into an Aloft Hotel. It was originally slated for phase 1, which was supposed to start in 2020 and be finished the following year.

Attorneys for the property owner said in filings that the COVID-19 pandemic and rise in the cost of materials has delayed the projects, but that plans are still underway. The company has also been approved for an extension from Marriott International Inc. to start the hotel project by October 2024.

Greg Fifer, attorney representing Clarksville, recently told LPM News the town would have preferred for things not to get to this point, but he’s hopeful about redevelopment discussions with the owner.

“I'm looking forward to getting something, and I think that if those historic structures get saved as a part of this process, however that plays out, that remains the primary objective,” he said.

Clarksville Town Manager Kevin Baity said in an email to LPM News that their position has not changed over the years, and that the town is willing to consider any project proposal for possible financial assistance.

“However the stumbling block has always been with the owner and their inability to put together a complete project package including financial pro forma for the Town to review,” Baity said in the email. “All we ask is that they do something — fully design a project, fully prepare a pro forma for evaluation, bring a project to action and then complete it.

“If done professionally from start to finish and repeated across the entire Colgate property, the owner and the Town can boast the property has been a major component of the redevelopment of South Clarksville…a true showcase to be proud of.”

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec, Inc. and the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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