It’s not the kind of opening R.H. Ledbetter Properties had hoped for at the new East Bend shopping center, but given the nature of 2020, the developers are happy to have four of the new retailers open.
The pandemic has delayed most of the tenants who signed on to the development on the former Kmart site on Hicks Drive. But at this point, everyone who signed up to open in Rome is still committed to the project
“Obviously we would have preferred to have opened the whole shopping center at the same time,” said Bob Ledbetter Jr.
Still, the trickle opening this fall, spreading out into 2021, might not be such a bad thing in the long run.
Chipotle, Panda Express, Texas Roadhouse and McAlister’s Deli are all open and serving dine-in customers. Virtually all of the small retail shops are done and ready to be turned over to tenants.
The Five Below and Old Navy buildings are up, but construction of the Kohl’s space has not yet begun.
“Five Below is supposed to open around the end of February or first of March,” Ledbetter said.
The foundation work for a new Discount Tire, between Texas Roadhouse and Chipotle, is underway and Ledbetter said he expects Fazoli’s to get started on their stand-alone restaurant soon after the first of the year. The Fazoli’s will be constructed between Texas Roadhouse and Five Below.
Ledbetter said he expects Discount Tire to open in late spring.
The majority of the spaces in the retail strips are leased but he said a few are still available.
Several of those tenants have been revealed: Jersey Mike’s, Wingstop, Eggs Up Grill and an Xfinity store. There also are others who have not been announced but remain committed to the project.
“We’re turning stuff over little by little,” Ledbetter said.
Some tenants have already started their interior build-out and Ledbetter expects a number of those shops to open by late spring or early summer.
Ledbetter said there are some positives to the trickle opening.
“From a hiring standpoint, a parking standpoint and a traffic standpoint, there probably have been some benefits,” Ledbetter said. “Not everything was going to open all at the same time, but certainly in closer proximity to each other.”
The center is expected to generate well over 400 jobs by the time all of the shops are open, perhaps by the end of 2021.
One question that won’t be answered until January is how the delayed opening of so much of the shopping center will impact the Tax Allocation District financing plan.
The TAD plan is supposed to return a portion of the increased taxes to the developer annually. In this case, that amount is scheduled to be $131,231 a year for 15 years.
The question remains: will the tax value be increased sufficiently to meet the anticipated $131,231 reimbursement for 2021, since the project was not completed in October of this year.
Rome City Manager Sammy Rich said it’s unclear how Ledbetter Properties’ estimated values will compare to the tax assessment. But that’s a company concern.
“It doesn’t affect the city. They’re going to get the base value anyway,” Ledbetter said.