That would be the proposed City Center retail development of the true big dog in these parts for such ventures, R.H. Ledbetter Properties Inc. Basically it would fill all the area along Riverside Parkway from the old Duck Pond site at the Turner McCall Boulevard corner (and opposite the street from Ledbetter’s existing comparatively new and obviously successful restaurant-filled Riverside Shopping Center) to the railroad tracks with new stores largely of the name-brand variety not yet found, but long desired, locally.
City Center would have five major “big box” spaces — two of them larger than the planned size of the new Publix — plus a ton more outparcels as 83 acres are involved.
Perhaps the Publix site, when all filled, will bring 200-300 new jobs to the area given some of the site spaces are spoken for by operations already present. City Center would create probably 1,000-2,000 new jobs.
For a community with a jobless rate currently above 11 percent and more than 5,000 residents on the looking-for-work rolls, that is HUGE. In combination, and not even counting the construction workforce dollars flowing through the community when all the final barriers are cleared away, this probably at least triples the foreseen impact of the fast-rising Lowe’s Distribution Center just north of Shannon.
LOCAL TAXPAYERS, already facing rumbles of coming increases, should be clamoring for this to be gotten off the ground particularly as the national economy shows some signs of life again that could get the retailing giants stirring ... as Publix just has.
The Ledbetters, who have already invested more than $1 million just in planning since first unveiling the concept in 2007, recently presented a new site plan that was very, very closely worked out with city officials and the consultants they wanted involved. The city not only owns the derelict property in question, much of it an old landfill, but also makes the rules needed to expedite this.
Sure, this is a Tax Allocation District, meaning the increase in property values/taxes would first be used to offset some of the added expenses of the developer dealing with unusual problems like the landfill and creek-side bog, but this would be 300,000-plus new square feet of sales space, generating local sales taxes, and the perhaps 2,000 new employees would themselves be paying/subsidizing property taxes where they live/rent and so forth.
As was entirely to be expected, our environmentalist friends who always mean well from a very tunnel-vision perspective, hollered “Foul!” on the new plan right away as they did with the first one. They would prefer the undeveloped area be used to extend Ridge Ferry Park up to Civic Center Hill to create a “Central Park.” Indeed a nice idea ... after taxpayers clean up the landfill on their own dime. However, if new jobs, and a lot of them, aren’t created, along with even more reason for neighbors to “come to town,” then what good would be a huge park with so few folks left to use it?
BESIDES, West Rome needs a nice big new park on the former General Electric property far, far more than East Romans need such an addition.
Frankly, in recent years the objections to the Ledbetter/Burwell Creek development have probably gotten more attention than the quietly, slowly forming business plan itself where keeping one’s cards hidden is the way a winning hand is played.
The Ledbetters still haven’t dropped specific names for their five anchors and zillion satellite sites though there are certainly gobs of big ones currently missing from the local shopping scene. Should they soon mention a “magic word” like Target and sprinkle fairy dust like Best Buy, Kohl’s, etc. over the site as well, it would result in their effort getting way, way more attention than “Publix” has in recent months. That said, there’s nothing wrong with giving the Coosa River Basin Initiative and the 1,000 folks who have signed its “save the creek” petition the chance they claim denied them to be heard at a public gathering. Frankly, those generate headlines for a day or two and then local officials proceed to do what is best for everybody anyhow. Let ‘em blow off steam.
To considerable extent this is quite similar to the Etowah Crossings fuss, which boiled down to “don’t spoil a pretty view” and “we’ve got a better idea if taxpayers provide the money.”
BEEN OUT to the ready-to-rent housing for seniors yet and looked around, perhaps walked the lovely new riverside Kingfisher Trail? What’s there now looks better than it did before and is of far more value to the human community although perhaps not to the squirrels (and rats?) that lost habitat.
What’s so special about Burwell Creek? It falls into the same category as the blighted landscape in South Rome: Ignored until somebody wanted to do something positive with it. Let’s face it, Burwell will never be a trout stream and, with or without either the Ledbetters or CRBI, will continue to flow with toxin-laden waters drained from the Celanese site and down the equipment junkyard there along with groundwater leached out of the former landfill.
Most of all, even beyond the jobs and revenues the Ledbetter proposal will generate (as will the Hight center) it appears little understood that Rome, population 35,000, lives or dies on being the shopping and services center for a region containing more than 300,000 folks. Some of that business is drained away to interstate neighbors where far more of the known names of sales pitches are found.
Most of those are in Atlanta (or Chattanooga) suburbs. If the Ledbetters, as they already have with name stores not previously present at their Riverbend and Riverside ventures, bring most of those brand businesses into what amounts to the very center and core of Rome that will actually be a somewhat unique amenity for a small urban area.
IT WILL ALSO create what is known a “symbiotic relationship” with all of Rome’s existing businesses and residents — meaning a relationship between entities that is mutually beneficial. The more customers come here, stay here the better it is for everybody’s business.
Wouldn’t it be great if the City Center could be fast-tracked and a construction race begun between it the Publix center to see who holds a grand opening first?