Massive RiverWalk complex announced

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2005

UNION TOWNSHIP - Right now it is only a hayfield lining the Ohio Riverfront in Lawrence County's eastern end; but to local business and government leaders, it is a field of dreams.

Local business and government leaders Thursday announced plans for a multi-use, multi-phased, multi-million dollar development known as RiverWalk, the area's first planned community.

The sprawling development will turn 135 acres of what used to be riverfront property known as "the old drag strip" into a myriad of residential, recreational, medical, shopping and industrial offerings around a marine/leisure theme aimed at retirees.

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The site is located between Indian Guyan Creek and the 31st Street Bridge on property owned by Dale and Carolyn Manns, who also own Superior Marine, Inc. and plan to operate the marina that will become a focal point of the development.

"Our region needs this type of leisure and recreation center where boats of any size can be accommodated. We are even including plans to allow the short term mooring of larger vessels along the Ohio shore."

Plans call for the eventual construction of 53 retirement lakeside cottages, a wellness center, an assisted living facility, the 385-slip marina, luxury condos, shops and industry geared to the boating/ marina sector.

The total project, once it is all completed, will be a $100 million investment in Lawrence County, officials said. An economic study prepared by Dominick Brook, research analyst with the Institute

for Local Government Administration and Rural Development projects the creation of 711 permanent new jobs within the planned businesses of RiverWalk and the creation of 179 new jobs within the area's existing businesses.

At the behest of local business leaders Thursday, the Lawrence County Commission approved an application for $750,000 in economic development grant monies from the Ohio Department of Development. That grant money would be used for site development. The $750,000 is part of $6 million earmarked under House Bill 427's Industrial Site Improvement Program to aid development in distressed counties in the state. State Senator John Carey sponsored that bill.

Kline said while there is great competition for the $6 million in state funds, he thinks this projects stands a good chance of being funded, because it so well represents the intent of

HB 470- to create jobs in a myriad of sectors that does not include traditional heavy industry.

"We plan to hand-deliver this next Wednesday to the state and then walk through the project with them," Kline said. "We have already had conversations with people on the state level."

County commissioners applauded the work being done to generate new development and new growth in the area. "I appreciate what everyone had done, especially with the investors who are local and investing in Lawrence County,"

Commission President Doug Malone said.

"I think this will draw from the whole Tri-State

area," Commissioner George Patterson agreed. "We are taking land out of a flood plain and making it useful. This is a win-win situation for Lawrence County."

Commissioner Jason Stephens said he could remember when that strip of land was used as a local softball field. He called the plans "just dramatic."

The grant application shows the project developing in two phases. The Dominick Brook study estimated that the first phase, Phase 1A will create 643 business and construction jobs and will generate $15.8 million in labor income. The study also estimated the first phase of development would generate $400,000 in state and local sales taxes from expenditures of new income in the county, $700,000 in property taxes and almost $500 million in state and local income and social insurance taxes. The total cost of this first phase is $1.329 million. Local officials plan to apply for Community Development Block Grant funds by the end of the month to help fund it, Kline said.

Construction is ready to begin on a 14,000 square-foot Liberty Circle Professional Building that will be located adjacent to Three Gables Surgery Center. Dr. R. Arturo Roa, one of the parties involved, said this will include a sinus and allergy center, sleep disorder center and voice and swallowing center.

The second phase is estimated to generate 3,548 construction and new business jobs with an $87.4 million in labor income. This phase should generate $2.3 million in state and local sales tax, $3.4 million in property taxes and $2.7 million in state and local income and social insurance taxes, according to a prepared statement released Thursday morning.

Local leaders are hoping this new development will create momentum on which to lure other economic development.

"In economic development, the thing we have found is that the Tri-State is one area. When we bring people in, we take them to Ashland or to the Wayne National Forest or to Marshall University. This is one community. To have this in the middle of that community, I think, will truly instill a lot of community pride for the whole Tri-State," said

On hand for Thursday's announcement were Union Township trustees Mike Curry and Randy Wise, who said they were pleased their area will be home to the county's first planned community.

"We love it," Union Township Curry said. Wise added that "This is a two-week-late Christmas president to Union Township."