Representatives from Wolftever Development, the group building Jordan Crossing which includes the Bass Pro Shops, briefed the city’s Industrial Development Board on progress being made on the $75 million retail project at Exit 1, Tuesday night during the board’s monthly meeting.
John Healy, a principal in the development group, said the construction on the 80,000 square-foot Bass Pro Shops has been hindered by wet weather recently, but explained that the giant outdoor retailer is scheduled to open in the first two weeks of June.
In answer to an inquiry by a board member, Healy said there are no plans currently for the Bass Pro Shops to have a restaurant inside like some of its other stores do.
Healy said that Zaxby’s had previously been announced as a restaurant that will be going into the Jordan Crossing development across the street from Bass Pro, and that his group is being careful in recruiting major tenants to the additional retail complexes that will soon be under construction.
Healy reiterated Wolftever’s commitment to East Ridge and providing the city with a development that it can be proud of. He said the group is looking for quality retail and restaurants that will be a “good fit” for East Ridge in the long-term. He said he will be going to New York next week to a retail conference which could yield results.
Board members asked about specific commitments from tenants in the development, including possible interest from a major automobile dealership.
Healy told the board that an auto dealership is not being recruited as a tenant. He further explained that Wolftever is hamstrung on making announcements of new stores coming to the development.
“The bigger they (major retailers) are the more control they want about announcements of their development,” he said.
The developers explained that the widening of Camp Jordan Parkway is underway and is scheduled for completion by April 15. The developers had previously stated that no other commitments from major retailers could be made without road improvements increasing access to the development.
Brad Hayen, the city’s chief building inspector, told the board that the biggest “hurdle” for the project now is the sewer system in Area 10, which includes all of the Jordan Crossing project.
Ethan Wood, who along with his brother Matt comprise the construction arm of Wolftever Development, explained to the board that sewer issues in the area are primarily due to ground water and storm water “infiltrating” the sewer system, causing sporadic overflows. The capacity of the sewer system is not an issue, he said.
Hayen asked if the developers knew where the WWTA (the entity which owns the city’s sewers) has checked for “infiltration” and where they have yet to test? Wood said he couldn’t answer that question.
Healy reassured Hayen and the board that the WWTA has yet to step in and tell the developers they could not proceed with any of their plans.
“It would be devastating if we had a tenant ready to go and the WWTA said they can’t tie into the project,” Healy said.
IDB Board member Mac Pendley asked if it were possible that once the road improvements to Camp Jordan Parkway were complete that the WWTA would come behind and install sewers which may compromise the new road.
Ethan Wood said that would not be the case, and once again reiterated that the problems are not related to capacity but to “holes in the system.”
The developers explained to the board that the unique legislation of the Border Region Act, which will reimburse the city 100 percent for virtually any infrastructure investment it makes within the Border Region district, expires in just over six years. The state would reimburse the city over the life of the legislation, which is about 27 years.
Healy said the city was reimbursed about $740,000 for last fiscal year. The developers got about $425,000 of that money. He said the city is already seeing the benefit of the Border Region Act. He said sales tax revenues were up 34 percent last year and anticipates those revenues to increase next year. This figure is without the sales tax revenue of the new Walmart Neighborhood Market, and of course, the anticipated Bass Pro Shops.
The Wolftever representatives had high praise for Diane Qualls, the city’s finance officer. They told the board that Qualls had a firm grasp on the myriad of details contained in the Border Region Act and a great working relationship with state bureaucrats helping to administrate reimbursements under the law to the city.