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Clarksville to use eminent domain to try to buy historic Colgate plant

By Aprile Rickert, IPB News | Published on in Government, Law, Statewide News
Clarksville officials are moving forward with next steps in taking the former Colgate property, after the owner failed to respond to a purchase offer by the Monday deadline. (Michael Collins / LPM)

Last month, Clarksville officials offered Clark’s Landing Enterprise Investments LLC $6 million for the former Colgate property. They say the owner didn’t respond by the Monday deadline, and now the town is moving forward with the next steps in eminent domain.

Clarksville officials asked the town attorney to move forward with filing paperwork to take the 47-acre former Colgate property Tuesday morning.

It’s the latest in what town leaders say has been several years of work toward salvaging the historic structures along South Clark Boulevard, which they say the owner has failed to shore up despite plans for redevelopment.

“And the town council has become concerned enough that they feel like it’s time for us to step in and do what it takes to protect that property,” said Clarksville Communications Director Ken Conklin.

In 2019, the Clarksville Town Council approved a master plan with the owner to develop the land — plans which included a hotel, residential spaces, commercial spaces and a civic center, the News and Tribune reported.

But those plans have yet to be realized. Last June, the council voted to start the condemnation process, citing concerns about the deterioration of some of the structures.

Conklin said the few inspections the town has been able to do in recent years show some buildings in disrepair and signs some may need to be taken down.

”If we allowed for the site to continue to degrade for another 11 years, it would likely require demolition,” according to a joint statement by the council last June.

The fate of the property is also tied to major redevelopment efforts the town has undertaken in recent years to build out a new downtown area in South Clarksville.

“We built our new Main Street with the Colgate clock and the Colgate plant as a main fixture,” Conklin said. “When you look down the street, that’s what you see, because that’s such a historically significant property for this town. So we’re going to do whatever we can to save it and the clock.”

The property was built in 1847 and at one time served as a state prison. It was sold to the Colgate-Palmolive company in the early 1920s, where they operated for around 90 years before ceasing operations there more than a decade ago.

Conklin said there are still a lot of steps for eminent domain, which include additional appraisals of the property in court and more talks between the town and the owner.

“So it’s going to be a long process, but at least it’s another step in the right direction,” he said.

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