The long-delayed construction of the Bass Pro Shop-anchored Spanish Fort Town Center has sprung to life again. Heavy equipment moved back Monday morning to the 222-acre site located adjacent to I-10 and Highway 98 in Spanish Fort. The development …
The long-delayed construction of the Bass Pro Shop-anchored Spanish Fort Town Center has sprung to life again. Heavy equipment moved back Monday morning to the 222-acre site located adjacent to I-10 and Highway 98 in Spanish Fort. The development sat dormant for 14 months while city officials and Cypress Equities, the developer of the project, ironed out details in resuming construction.
The City Council gave its initial approval to the 780,000-square-foot lifestyle shopping area more than two years ago. However, construction was halted on the project when the developer claimed construction costs escalated after hurricane Katrina hit the area.
The council restructured the deal in January only to hit another roadblock when Cypress was unable to secure leases with enough retailers. The council again revisited the agreement in hopes of resurrecting the project.
Last month the council gave final approval to the third revision of the original agreement with Cypress. The final draft provides incentives to the development, including the formation of a cooperative improvement district, similar to the Eastern Shore Centre, with a special sales tax of 1.5 percent at the Town Center.
The arrangement will also allow the city to issue $30.5 million in bonds which would include $22.5 million dollars in infrastructure improvements to the area such as roads, bridges, utilities and a storm water drainage system. The latest agreement also allows the developer to scale back the size of the project and add the construction of an apartment complex.
Spanish Fort Councilman Mike McMillan was all smiles Monday night. “Isn’t it great?” he asked. “I am thinking of having a party and just going down there and watch them work.”
McMillan reflected on the struggle to make the Center a reality. “It has been a long drawn-out two years to get it to this point, but they are finally moving forward and it is a wonderful sight.”
The councilman believes the wait will be worth it. “It is a good investment for the city. When this project is completed, it will mean a lot of jobs and tax revenue for the city.”
The development, which is expected to attract nearly two million visitors a year, should provide the city with $500,000 to $600.000 in tax revenue each year.
The development appears to be moving forward on other fronts. Cypress has announced an agreement with the La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery. The furniture company plans to occupy a 15,000-square-foot store at the development. La-Z-Boy will be joined at the development by J.C. Penney, Circuit City, Kohl’s, Terry Thompson Chevrolet, as well as The Bass Pro Shops. Developers also have plans to include a hotel and apartment complex.
Monday’s construction work included removing mud and soft ground to build up the site to lessen the possibility of erosion.
Earlier, environmental groups attempted to stop the project by filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The group had hoped to halt the project by petitioning to have a wetland building permit denied. The group was unsuccessful in their attempts when the U.S. District Court in Mobile ruled in favor of the Corps last month and allowed the project to continue.
Councilman Tom Sawyer said “The project is now projected to open in about 18 months, but it could be as early as 12 to 14 months.”