Councilmen met with Kathy Dennis of The Shopping Center Group, a Birmingham-based developer that proposed an 180,000 square foot retail center for the city’s 33-acre property near Walmart in June. The initial site plan included six junior anchor stores, 8,000 square feet for smaller shops, five outparcels, an amphitheater, temporary booths for events, community garden space and 860 parking spaces, among other amenities.
Attorney Robert Gilpin, representing the city, joined the work session via telephone to address concerns with the initial contract proposed by the developer. Among other issues, the city requested: a time limit and/or reduction of the $10 million requested for revenue sharing; clawbacks to revert the land back to city ownership should development fail; language to exclude current businesses that may move to the new development from revenue sharing, since that is not new money for the city; language that represents the city as a construction lender; and language that gives the city some say in what businesses locate here.
Dennis said the developer expected changes and is open to negotiating all of the city’s concerns.
“Basically this was a proposal to the city, and we’re looking for a counterproposal or comments to the contract,” she said. “We didn’t submit this to be set in stone.”
The group is asking option on the land and about six months’
time to market it and secure retailers. Dennis said the proposed project would cost about $12 million to $15 million to complete, with the city being responsible for related offsite expenses, such as road access from U.S. 280. The Shopping Center Group has completed a gap analysis to determine what types of stores are absent from the community, she said, and is ready to pursue retailers.
“We’ve got a list of retailers. When we get a contract, that’s what we’re going to do is go after those retailers,” Dennis said. “I haven’t reached out to anyone yet, because we weren’t sure (about the contract), but I’ve put a few feelers out.”
Council President Rocky Lucas asked Dennis what her confidence level is that they can attract businesses to fill a shopping center at this location.
“I think we can make it happen,” she said. “The big factor is going to be, once we realize whose got the interest, we start getting down to the nitty gritty. You find out what the retailers are going to pay, what the rent is going to be. Then you get down to numbers. Yes, there’s interest, but are they going to cover the costs to build the building…I feel pretty confident we can make it work. With the city’s incentive package, you guys are offsetting those rents.”
Gilpin asked about the possibility of including a movie theater in the shopping center, and Dennis said it is on her list to pursue, though a theater would cost more and would generate less revenue than a retail store. Mayor Doug Murphree asked about bringing in a chain restaurant, and Dennis said that also is a possibility once they start securing retailers.
Lucas told Gilpin the city is “ready for you and your folks to maybe put us a document together to try and move forward with this, and to kind of see, as far as protecting the city and things like that, I think we’re at that stage.”
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