With a Tax Allocation District financing plan in place and variances set for construction of the East Bend shopping center on the old 19.94-acre Kmart site, the next step for R.H. Ledbetter Properties is to actually close on the acquisition of the property.

Bob Ledbetter Jr. said he expects the closing process to start June 28 with the extraction of fuel pumps from the former Kmart gas station, the first actual physical activity the public will see. He anticipates work should begin by mid-July with demolition of the old Kmart, and buildings that used to house Little Caesars Pizza and Great Clips hair salon is expected to start later in July or early in August.

Demolition of the old Kmart superstore will be a little more complicated than some people might imagine because the building covers almost 4 acres under one roof.

“The building will come down fine, but then you’ve got the concrete slab and the footings. All of that stuff has got to come out,” Ledbetter said.

Once the demolition is complete water, sewer and road infrastructure work will get underway, followed by construction of the 20-plus retail shops planned for the East Bend Center.

Four deals with tenants are signed and in hand, four more are expected to be signed by the end of the month with others at varying degrees of negotiation.

“We can’t officially announce them, they’ll do so when they’re ready,” Ledbetter said of the tenants.

The way the design is configured, there will be three primary anchor shops which will sit on the back side of the existing lot, closer to and facing Turner McCall Boulevard.

The final number of stores could still vary because in one case, a 7,000-square-foot space is still not firmly committed, he said, and if the discussions with the proposed tenant don’t culminate with a deal, that property could be sliced into several smaller shops.

The new center is expected to employ close to 400 people and generate between $800,000 and $1 million in sales taxes annually.

The TAD financial package would return up to $131,231 to the developers each year for 15 years, a total of $1,968,465, which will help offset some of the upfront redevelopment costs associated with the project.

One of the other factors that has slowed the process somewhat is that Ledbetter is working at the same time to develop phase two of the Bay City Point shopping center in Panama City, Florida.

“The hurricane (Michael) delayed us and we have just started site work on it,” Ledbetter said of the Florida project.

Construction at East Bend is expected to be complete by October of 2020 in time for retailers to move in and open in time for holiday shopping.