JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WAVE) - A longtime staple of downtown Jeffersonville that has sat empty for more than a year now may soon see new life.
Rocky’s Sub Pub along the Ohio River shocked many when they shuttered their business last year. Now, there are new plans to transform the former restaurant space into townhomes and apartments in the area.
The owner of Buckhead Mountain Grill and Rocky’s developer Wes Johnson said this is an estimated $25-28 million development that will drive new residents to Jeffersonville.
"I like seeing them invest over here for sure," said Jill Dodson, owner of Widow’s Walk in Clarksville.
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said this idea has been one developers have considered for a year or so.
"Even though they've had a for sale sign on this property, I don't think they ever intended on selling it,” Moore said. “They've had this idea since before Rocky's closed. So, I think you're probably six months away from maybe being able to clear all the hurdles.”
Johnson said they looked carefully at the area, realizing that with the Ohio River and Clark Memorial Bridge nearby, this area was perfect for new housing.
“It’s about as good a place as you could imagine to put in a multi-family development,” Johnson said. “We felt like this was a good addition to that corridor that’s been commercial for a long time.”
They plan to build the housing in two configurations, Johnson said, both 16-townhouse style units that will be two-stories tall where Rocky’s sits as well as an apartment complex across the street that will have more than 100 units. In all, 138 units of new downtown housing will be provided.
The loss of a beloved restaurant that was a part of Jeffersonville for decades still stings for many.
Carl Maertz and his wife Maryann said they loved to come up from Louisville to sit out to the riverfront spot.
“Used to go over all the time, have fun with everybody regardless of if it was a special day or not. We always hung on the river, every day, we was even there even if there was snow, we had everyone sitting down but we loved it. And I can’t see it becoming housing,” said Maertz.
“Rocky’s is an icon for the city of Jeffersonville. And a lot of people were very sad. You know, and the employees were hit with the news of the closing pretty hard,” Moore said. “But you know, life goes on. Jeffersonville is ever changing and I love to see a piece of property that once had one significance transformed into something new and I think you’re going to see something really special here.”
Jill Dodson runs a popular ice cream shop just down the road in Clarksville. She said she believes this project will help the riverfront grow.
“I think that they need more housing, think it’ll bring more people in, bring more jobs, bring me more business. So, works for me,” Dodson said.
The final details between the city and developers need to be ironed out before work can begin, according to Moore. This project, he said, brings needed housing downtown and driving more people to move to Jeffersonville.
"You’re going to have some really nice apartments for people to live at, walk to, walk across the bridge, go across the river. It’s an ideal location with a beautiful view of the Ohio River and Louisville, Kentucky just beyond,” Moore said.
One big thing they'll need to iron out before it gets the city's final go-ahead is a plan for murals on the floodwall where the proposed apartment complex would straddle.
“Those murals are very significant to our city. They were expensive and I’m going to expect the developer to pay for the expense of a new artist to come in and maybe we get those murals moved down closer to the flood wall where Big Four Station and the Big Four Bridge straddle it,” Moore said.
Preserving that artwork is important, Johnson agreed. He said they’ve been working with the city leaders on a plan that will preserve and even enhance the murals.
And for Buckhead Mountain Grill fans in Jeffersonville, there’s no need to worry. Plans to build this new housing will not impact the restaurant there in any way, Johnson said.
Once the final details between the city and developers are worked out, Moore said he estimates it would be around six months before work on the site would begin.