Retail project to begin soon; Short delay should not affect projected completion date

Developers are nailing down the financial ends for the first retail project planned for a blighted area in northwest Muskogee, the city’s retail development consultant said this week.

Rickey Hayes of Retail Attractions said the developer has begun the engineering phase of the urban renewal project, which was slated to begin this week. City Attorney Roy Tucker, who met Wednesday with Vector Securities representatives, said the retail project is “still on track for the October (2015) opening date.”

“I think the site tour by the guy coming in ... is one of those things that is more show than it is anything else,” Hayes said during his monthly progress report to city councilors. “They have to come verify that we’ve really got a project, that the city is in control of the land, that the transaction will take place, and that the guarantees of the loans and finances that go into the project will be what they are supposed to be for.”

Vector plans to build a 102,537-square-foot retail shopping center with a separate 6,700-square-foot restaurant. The first-phase urban renewal project will be built on a 10.5- acre tract located on the southwest corner of the Sixth Street and Shawnee Bypass intersection.

The shopping center will be anchored by Dick’s Sporting Goods, TJ Maxx, Ulta Salon Cosmetics and Fragrance, and it could include a couple of restaurants and other stores. The project represents an investment of about $18.5 million and is expected to create about 100 construction jobs and 216 retail-sector jobs once it is completed about a year from now.

Vector’s development proposal included a mid-November start date for construction, but it appears unlikely any dirt will be turned by the target date of today. The aggressive project schedule was established to meet the developer’s contractual agreements with tenants who plan to open their doors for business by Oct. 15.

City Manager Howard Brown Jr. said even if equipment is not on site by this weekend, he is confident there will be no significant delays. Brown said if delays were imminent, he would have heard about it.

Hayes also said he is confident the first-phase project is moving forward as planned. He said Vector Vice President James W. Dill “has written considerable checks in the past couple of weeks, so he is invested” in the urban renewal project.

“We are further along than we have ever been,” said Hayes, who worked several years with the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce before the city retained his services for a newly created retail and housing development division. “The project should ... move along very quickly” if fair weather returns to the area in the near future.

In addition to retail development within the urban renewal area, Hayes said he has met with residential developers. He said those developers have expressed interest in pursuing both multi- and single-family residential projects.

The area designated for urban renewal is bounded by Chicago and 11th streets on the east and west and Shawnee Bypass and Talladega Street on the north and south. The area targeted for the first retail development project is bounded on the east and west by Sixth and Ninth streets and on the north and south by Shawnee Bypass and Katy Street.

Urban renewal commissioners divided the 90-acre urban renewal area into three project areas. The largest area targeted for first-phase development has been set aside for big-box retail projects, and the second- and third-phase areas were set aside for commercial infill and residential development, respectively.