City panel ends retail recruitment deal
City Manager Sammy Rich won approval from the city Redevelopment committee Wednesday to bail out of the third year of a three-year retail recruitment agreement with NextSite 360.
“I’d just as soon reinvest the money in a different way,” Rich told the committee.
During the first two years of the contract, NextSite 360 has produced a lot of demographic data which the city has shared with developers and real estate agents, but thus far has not been able to land any major new retailers.
“They are routinely out dealing with shopping center developers, but to fast forward, in light of our economic development discussion, I would recommend that we don’t continue with year three,” he said. “We’ve got the data we need and I would rather reinvest that money into whatever our new efforts are.”
The city has spent $15,000 in each of the past two years, however the Alabama-based company has not been able to seal a deal with any new retailers for the community yet.
The committee did agree to move forward with the plans for a Mount Berry Tax Allocation District agreement with the Hull Property Group, owners of Mount Berry Mall.
The mall owners are asking for a 15-year agreement where they would receive approximately $88,200 a year. The money would come out of incremental increases in the tax value of the mall parcels as HPG makes its own investments in the property.
The Augusta-based firm has agreed to make multi-million dollar upgrades at the mall including demolition of the Sears end of the property, realignment of roads at that end of the property and additional outparcel development.
“Their plea has been we need this to be able to keep the mall from going dark, to help keep strong corporate tenant leases in place,” Rich said.
The city manager pointed out there is value to trying to salvage what is already out at the mall. The demolition of the Sears end of the mall does open up several outparcels on the north end of the property. The owners have indicated they could recruit restaurants for that area and possibly a small strip retail center.
City Clerk Joe Smith pointed out that demolition of the northern end of the mall would, in all likelihood, have the effect of reducing the tax value of the property. This means there would not be any incremental increase in the tax value to return to owners at the outset of any redevelopment. Rich and Assistant City Manager Patrick Eidson indicated Hull was well aware of that.
“It does open up other opportunities for others in that area,” Commissioner Bill Collins said.
“There has been some good investment in this general area,” Rich said.
He listed the new Goo Goo Car Wash, the RaceTrac convenience store, the new DiPrima’s restaurant as examples.
“We could end up seeing a sort of resurgence in this area,” Rich said.