Council members heard from Robert Jolly, a partner in Retail Strategies, a Birmingham-based company that specializes in helping city’s bring in retail business. Jolly is working as a consultant for the city and has played a major role in attracting the developer to Jasper.
The developer, who was not identified, is expected to invest more than $9 million in redeveloping the shopping center, including the cost of purchasing the property and construction of the shopping center.
The proposed redevelopment includes national retailers TJ Maxx, Hobby Lobby, Shoe Carnival and Petco. It also includes space for additional businesses to locate in the shopping center in the future.
Council members are expected to vote during Tuesday’s regular council meeting on the developer’s request for rebate incentives to make the project possible.
“As the city's consultant and partner, we have vetted this incentive request and believe that it frames up a win-win partnership with little risk to the city, while providing a significant return on the city’s investment,” Jolly said. “The proposed project will be great for Jasper and Walker County, bringing strong national retailers to the market and keeping retail dollars local. Additionally, this project will benefit Jasper’s existing retailers by attracting consumers from surrounding communities and will be a catalyst to the future recruitment of new retailers and restaurants.”
Mayor Sonny Posey and council members said they are working hard to make the project come to fruition.
“What we’re dealing with is one of the greatest opportunities our city has been presented with, from a retail standpoint, in many, many years,” Posey said following the work session. “There’s an excellent property — Jasper Square Shopping Center — and there are four potential tenants who have, in principal, agreed, and we’re trying to work it out and make arrangements through our incentive program that will cause them to come here, and we hope to have this agreement worked out and in place and them under construction shortly after the first of the year.”
Work is expected to begin in early 2014, with businesses slated to open well before Christmas 2014.
“These are all nationally known retailers, the type people you want in your market,” Posey said. “We love the mom-and-pop-type local operators, but in order to be successful we have to have big companies like this who are able to offer larger selections and high-quality merchandise. We expect them to come in and be as big a part of the retail community as any other retailer in town.
“This will be the impetus for many years for future growth from a retail standpoint for this community,” he added.
Linda Lewis, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, said the chamber fully supports the redevelopment of the shopping center and has been working for the past year to make the project possible.
“The Chamber of Commerce of Walker County is extremely excited in working together with the city, county and retail specialists in partnership to expand the tax base and create jobs through aggressive recruitment,” Lewis said. “By this successful recruitment of a diverse mix of retailers, it will create jobs for area residents, reduce the local unemployment rate, grow the tax base and help to ensure a more stable economic base.”
Lewis said the project is dependent on the city council’s willingness to grant rebate incentives to the developer.
“This project however is contingent upon the council's approval of the proposed development agreement and final execution of leases with the named tenants,” she said. “It is time to make Walker County all it can and should be.”
Lewis said TJ Maxx and Hobby Lobby were among the top choices of a recent survey of businesses wanted by residents of the city.
“These retailers want to be in Jasper,” Jolly told council members during the work session.
The redevelopment of the shopping center will bring in an estimated $19 million in annual sales, with the city taking in more than $500,000 in annual sales tax revenue and business license fees.
In all, between 70 and 90 jobs are expected to be created by the businesses.
During the work session, council members also heard from officials from VFW Post 4850 concerning the post’s request to regain an alcohol license.
The main issue council members discussed was the city’s ordinance dictating the distance from a church or school that is required before issuance of an alcohol license is granted.
Council president Gary Cowen said he supports the post’s request to regain its license, but steps must be taken to ensure the process is done correctly.
The council can’t vote on any issues discussed at a work session.