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Developers: RiverWalk will be huge to area

PROCTORVILLE - The RiverWalk planned community, the biggest thing coming to Lawrence County, just keeps getting bigger and closer to reality.

Developers met Thursday with state economic development officials and representatives from local congressional offices in an attempt to "get everyone on the same page," said project coordinator Pat Clonch.

She said the meeting was an informational one intended to help offset any fears the state might have about investing seed money into a project that is within the 100-year flood plain.

The developers are preparing to again apply for two state grants of approximately $1.3 million that will help provide seed money for the project. Clonch said the grants would represent less than 1 percent of the total cost.

The project's cost has grown to approximately $131 million after the latest estimates were adjusted to include growing regulatory costs. When complete, the project will include a marina, medical offices, residential, retail and professional facilities.

The site is located along the Ohio River just west of the 29th Street bridge to Huntington, W.Va.

"Their concern is that the land that has to be filled requires so much work," Clonch said. "There's a lot of dirt that needs to be moved."

Because of the site's low grade, the land will need to be raised above the flood plain, something which Clonch said isn't new to Lawrence County.

"It is such a huge project and we knew we had the capacity to do it," she said, referring to other such projects including the Burlington Wal-Mart/Sam's Club location and Three Gables Surgery Center

Lawrence County Flood Plain Coordinator Joe Black said that anytime you see positive economic development, it's a good thing.

"You can utilize land in the flood plain," Black said. "We're glad to see this land being put forth to new use."

Clonch said the state and congressional representatives toured several sites that had been constructed in the flood plain and were able to see first-hand that it can be done.

"When they left they realized that we can do (what we proposed)," Clonch said. "It's a huge project. It's not going to happen overnight."

When complete, the project could change not only Lawrence County, developers said, but the entire Tri-State.

"This will become our region's icon," said Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, the county's economic development engine.

Dingus, who gave an overview of the planned project, said the project was a real benefit for the area.Dominick Brook, data/research analyst with Ohio University, said the economic impact on the project could be tremendous.

An estimated 3,548 construction and new business jobs could be created with an $87.4 million in labor income, Brook said.

The total community project is projected to generate $2.3 million in state and local taxes, $3.4 million in property taxes and $2.7 million in state and local income and social insurance taxes.