Thursday, June 9, 2011

Grandview Gets Pro-Active on the Future of Truman Corners

By Seann McAnally
Is a new lease on life in store for Truman Corners?
Grandview officials are getting aggressive about changing the city’s image and drawing new business to town. Specifically, officials are meeting with developers and retailers about breathing new life into the Truman Corners Shopping Center.
“Not that it is a surprise, but when I’m out talking with the citizens of Grandview, the number-one question I get from them is, ‘What are you going to do about Truman Corners?’” said Mayor Steve Dennis. “We’ve all said that we want to be aggressive in bringing new business to Grandview and changing its image. There’s a lot of campaign promises that we’ve made to our community. I just want to keep those promises.”
Dennis recently travelled to the International Council of Shopping Centers conference in Las Vegas to “tell Grandview’s story to the retailers of America;” meanwhile, the Board of Aldermen has hired consultants to do market studies for the center, and is moving toward the possibility of working with RED Development to redevelop Truman Corners.
With the center under-performing for more than a decade, the board voted early this year to dissolve the Truman Corners tax increment financing deal. Joe Lauber, legal counsel for the city, said the center’s owners had appealed several increases in its property tax value, claiming to the taxing jurisdiction that the value of the center had actually gone down.
“That’s contrary to the purpose of a TIF, which is to increase value,” Lauber said at a public hearing on whether to dissolve the TIF. Several board members expressed frustration that economic activity at the shopping center actually declined during the life of the TIF.
But things have changed in Grandview, say officials – national developers are now eyeing the shopping center, indicating that it may soon have a new lease on life.
The Board of Aldermen unanimously passed two ordinances in May that set up an agreement with RED Development to pursue a market feasibility study for the shopping center.
That doesn’t mean RED has a formal deal to redevelop the shopping center, but it is exploring the possibility of purchasing it from the current owner, a New Jersey utility company. RED representatives have had several meetings with city officials to discuss hypothetical future uses for the shopping center.
“We’ve always believed that we needed to be ready to go if anyone showed interest,” Dennis said. “Then RED showed interest. (Grandview’s) image is starting to change. The energy here is starting to get noticed.”
The city hired Jeff Green Partners, of Pheonix, Az., to conduct the market feasibility study for some $30,000. What came back was encouraging, Dennis said.
“The bottom line of the study is, Truman Corners is ripe for the harvest,” Dennis said.
The study says the best fit for Truman Corners would be a mixed-use development that included mostly retail, restaurants and entertainment, but also some office space and residential units. The study also said Grandview could support a hotel at the site.
Retail stores that would be appropriate for the location, according to the study, are such stores as Marshalls, Gordman’s, T.J. Maxx, Staples Office Supply, a major brand female clothing, and a Wal-Mart Supercenter, to mention a few. None of those businesses have definite plans to move to Truman Corners, but the study says they’d fit well there. And each of those retailers have been contacted and have at least shown interest in taking talks to the next phase.
The study also spoke of Grandview’s need for local entertainment options, and said a movie theater and high-end “sit-down” restaurants would be appropriate. It also spoke of the need for an additional grocery store.
The consultants indicated that while Grandview has declined in recent years, the high volume of traffic that travels through the city, as well as expansion and improvement of the 150 Hwy corridor, makes Grandview well-poised to host some form of mixed-use development at the Truman Corners site.
Dennis said he felt that was appropriate for Grandview.
“It bodes well,” Dennis said. “Our city is mixed in many ways – ethnicity, socio-economic, age groups…the bottom line is that Truman Corners is more than ever a doable project.”
While Mayor Dennis was in Las Vegas to “tell the Grandview story” he met with some 78 vendors, developers, brokers and investment groups. 
“Forty-four of those want to have more conversations,” Dennis said. Those include grocery store chains, theater chains, and a major home improvement chain.
RED was also at the conference talking about Grandview, in addition to its numerous other projects.
“We all though tit would be a good idea to go out there and sell ourselves and meet with every business we thought would be a good fit for Grandview,” Dennis said. “It’s at these meetings where you get to meet face-to-face with the decision makers.”
Dennis stressed that RED and Grandview do not have a formal deal to redevelop Truman Corners, but the fact that RED and other major developers are interested speaks volumes.
“No formal partnership on Truman Corners has been reached between the city and any developer,” Dennis said. “But there is serious interest. Grandview is now on the radar screen with many developers. So far, RED is the most adamant. They’ve shown the most interest.”
Dennis said he’s confident that whatever redevelopment project ultimately is approved has some green space for residents to gather and relax, and to break up the vast expanse of concrete that is so visible from 71 Hwy as motorists pass through town. He said he hoped some form of military memorial would be part of the plan.

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