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Floating restaurant proposal up for review

Feb. 21, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

ASHLAND -- Talk of a restaurant along the city's riverfront has been floating around for 20 years or more, but a proposal will be up for review at Thursday's Ashland Board of City Commissioners meeting.

City officials will have a chance to let City Manager Steve Corbitt look into a proposal to bring the 135-foot Star of Louisville or a similar sized boat to Ashland as a floating restaurant.

"I'd say there's a 50-50 chance this could happen," City Commissioner Kevin Gunderson said Wednesday. "It would cost about $10,000 to bring water and sewer service to the site. Installing additional parking along the riverfront would cost an estimated $216,000."

The city also would need approval from the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to moor the boat and an accompanying party barge at the Ashland riverfront.

Corbitt said the project could bring 60 jobs to the city. The city's cost of the project could run between $250,000 to $300,000. However, the city could receive about $57,000 in taxes and fees annually from the restaurant.

"I'm intrigued by this," Gunderson said. "It would draw more people to the riverfront."

One concern is that some of the area that could be set aside for parking is in the floodplain, Gunderson said. "It was under water for 27 days last year," he said.

The proposal includes adding about 60 city-owned public parking spaces along the riverfront.

A floating restaurant has been part of the city's riverfront plans for years, Gunderson said. It was among the proposals first presented when U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell got a $10 million budget appropriation for riverfront improvements in Ashland. Concepts for the proposal were between $25 and $30 million, so some of the plans were pared down. The floating restaurant wasn't included in the $10 million appropriation several years ago.

"I think this is the closest we've ever been to making this happen," Corbitt said. "It looks like an attractive proposal to me. I would recommend it. We could get our money back in about five years."