Groundbreaking moment: Governor, officials turn shovels at site for Shawnee Marketplace

With shovels in hand, officials celebrated Wednesday as dirt was turned at the Shawnee Marketplace construction site, where stores including Hobby Lobby and PetsMart will be built as part of Phase 1.

The site, in the area of Interstate 40 and Kickapoo and west of several restaurants along that corridor, has undergone a dramatic transformation already as erosion control and site preparations have been under way for the $20 million first phase of the Hunt Properties, Inc. project.

Local and state officials, including Gov. Mary Fallin, attended the groundbreaking ceremony.

“It’s a great announcement for economic development, job creation, revenue growth — a wonderful addition to this community,” Fallin said as she spoke to those in attendance.

Shawnee Mayor Wes Mainord addressed and welcomed the crowd, along with Pottawatomie County Commissioner Melissa Dennis.

“This is a beginning of a new milestone in the growth of Shawnee and Pottawatomie County,” Dennis said, adding many have been part of “this amazing vision.”

Harry Birdwell, secretary of the Commissioners of the Land Office, spoke about how the CLO has owned a section of land, about 640 acres in the area west of the development, since statehood. He said he spoke with Fallin, who also sits on CLO the board, about how part of that land from a state asset could be used for economic growth, which began the path toward this project becoming a reality.

The deal for the Shawnee Marketplace was made possible by many factors, including Hunt Properties exchanging land it owned in Oklahoma City for the land in Shawnee, which was original property of the CLO.

Prior to trading that 23 acres of land, the CLO, which secures funds for education, was receiving about $400 a year in grazing rights for that area, Birdwell said.

By trading properties so the Shawnee Marketplace can be built, the CLO now has properties that will provide $400,000 in net income for state schools, he said, adding the deal also puts property on the land rolls. The Shawnee Marketplace also will generate more than $1 million a year in sales tax, he said, and will provide 500 long-term jobs, among other benefits.

“What a win, win opportunity,” he said.

Rickey Hayes, a consultant who worked to bring this project to Shawnee, said a lot of people worked together to make the marketplace happen.

“Economic development happens through public and private partnerships,” he said, as he spoke of many other Hunt projects in Oklahoma and in 12 other states.

The governor said in addition to the estimated 500 jobs it will create when finished, the project also will create 200 construction jobs. With the new stores opening, Fallin said others would follow.

While it’s already been announced that a Hobby Lobby, PetsMart, along with a Famous Footwear, Ulta and a TJ Maxx will be part of the Phase 1, a few more frontage stores in Phase 1 and those involved in Phase 2 have yet to be announced.

Once complete, the marketplace is expected to have annual sales of about $30 million. Phase 1 of the project calls for about 125,000 square feet of retail space with six retailers on 16 acres of the initial development area. The retailers in Phase 1 should have spaces of anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 square feet each, with the main entrance for Phase 1 planned to be off Kickapoo Street.

With completion of Phase 2, the development will have a total of 400,000 square feet of retail space.

Tim Burg, director of the Shawnee Economic Development Foundation, said Phase 2 is expected to be another $20 to $30 million investment, so both phases together are easily an investment in excess of $50 million for this area.

“We are excited about the project starting, honored to have the Governor come be part of the community celebration and hope the contractors are able to complete the construction at record speed,” Burg said after the ceremony.

Both the city of Shawnee and Pottawatomie County commissioners have inked incentive agreements to bring this development to Shawnee.

Pottawatomie County commissioners agreed to provide up to $1.25 million in economic development funds for development, while the city of Shawnee approved a sales tax rebate agreement.

That sales tax rebate agreement states the city agrees to provide the developer, in the form of a rebate, an amount not to exceed $3.75 million in sales tax generated exclusively from the new project.

The amount of sales tax rebate will be 2 percent of taxable sales for six years, then 1.5 percent for an additional three years, for a total period not to exceed nine years up to a maximum of $3.75 million, whichever comes first.

The city of Shawnee collects three cents tax for every dollar spent while Pottawatomie County will benefit from the county’s one-cent sales tax. In addition, Burg said the entire county will benefit from the ad valorem taxes generated by the development, as will schools and the library.

Shawnee City Manager Brian McDougal, who first met the developer of this project in 2009, called it an “exciting” day.

“It’s going to provide many of the shopping outlets that citizens have been asking for,” McDougal said, adding, “and it will keep the money local.”

The construction schedule calls for stores to open in the Spring of 2015.

Watch for updates.