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Clarksville advances new development plans for former America’s Best site

A rendering of plans for the former America's Best Inns and Suites property in Clarksville, near Interstate 65.
Town of Clarksville
Clarksville officials are partnering with a local developer on plans for the at Eastern Boulevard and Interstate 65.

There’s renewed movement toward redevelopment of a property along Eastern Boulevard in Clarksville that once housed a hotel known for long-term stays.

The Clarksville Redevelopment Commission approved a term sheet and purchase agreement Thursday for redevelopment of the land that once held America’s Best Inn and Suites.

Form G Companies is seeking to build the $18.5 million Gateway Green project. It would include 26 condos on the front part of the property, currently owned by the town, and 124 apartments on the back portion, owned by Form G.

Plans include a clubhouse for residents, electric vehicle charging stations, green space and around 2,000 square feet of retail space.

According to the purchase agreement passed preliminarily Thursday, Form G would buy the town-owned land for $450,000.

The presentation Thursday is the third iteration Form G has proposed for all or part of the site. The company’s initial proposal last November included retail space, townhomes and around 200 apartments.

That plan passed the redevelopment commission, but it stalled when the economic development commission did not approve the use of developer-backed bonds for the project.

Town spokesperson Ken Conklin said several members of the town council also had concerns about increasing the amount of apartments in that area, which already includes several complexes.

Form G could have moved ahead with the initial plan if they financed the project themselves without the use of bonds. The company also could still move forward with development of the roughly 2.5 acres it owns. But some Clarksville officials say that would make it harder for the town to market or develop the remaining land, and to recoup the roughly $5 million they paid for the hotel and property four years ago. They estimate the town will net around $1 million over the next two decades in Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, monies and other avenues.

“Form G has their lot on the back side. The redevelopment commission has their lot on the front side,” Mike Mustain, town council member and redevelopment commission president recently told LPM News. “And the best way to picture it is we have two halves of a boat sitting in a warehouse. Either half could float, but not very well. But they could sail if they would come together and become one.”

The most recent proposal presented this week includes the redevelopment commission providing a $750,000 forgivable loan to the borrower. The redevelopment commission would also use its authority to issue up to $2.1 million in developer-backed bonds.

“Those bonds would be developer-bought, meaning the developer owns 100% of the responsibility of the repayment of those bonds,” Town Manager Kevin Baity said during the redevelopment commission meeting. “No indebtedness would be incurred by the town on that project.”

Finding a developer and approving a plan has been in the works for several years. In June 2019, town officials announced plans to buy the hotel property and redevelop the site. This was days after local news outlets reported the property had been sold to an Indianapolis-based developer and that residents there had 30 days to relocate.

The town confirmed at the time that the displacement of residents had been an unintended consequence of the sale, and that the town did not issue the 30-day period to vacate.

Community agencies formed a task force to help relocate the more than 100 residents staying there long term.

Previous ideas for the property, including discussions around a sports complex there, have not come to fruition.

There are still more steps needed before work can begin, including the approval of the developer-backed bonds, as well as the site plan.

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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