When the Downtown River House Hotel’s power was shut off in 2009 and more than 50 Evansvillians were forced to abandon their rooms, Chris Jackson looked at the structure’s investment potential. The commercial real estate broker noted that the 1965 hotel boasts views of the Ohio River, is within walking distance of the city’s new arena, and caters to Downtown’s assortment of restaurants and entertainment areas. “Its location is irreplaceable,” Jackson says, but holes overflowing with broken beams and insulation are visible from the street. That’s just the beginning of the hotel’s structural problems that will require more than a little TLC to bring the building back to prominence.
But Jackson of Woodward Commercial Realty loves the property’s potential, and in May, he draped a Woodward banner across the hotel’s walkway in hopes of attracting the perfect buyer. “It’s going to take an experienced investor or operator to make this site a viable and profitable project,” he says.
For the business boost the arena is expected to generate (proponents anticipate 530 jobs will be created as a result of the new facility), Jackson still treads lightly on the subject of prosperity. “Economic fundamentals have to improve,” he says. “Downtown is primarily made up of office space, and office space is driven by jobs. The new arena and employment growth, such as the recent announcement of SS&C Technologies (a company bringing an estimated 500 jobs Downtown), will spur things, but it will take more to see substantial improvement to the Downtown landscape. Hopefully, we will see our local core employment base expand and hire additional people as well as see new businesses make the Evansville area its home.”