Poised for economic growth
Stephanie Myers News-Herald.net
Plans to expand the Ingles grocery store in Lenoir City are in limbo one year after representatives with the company requested site plan approval for construction, which is not the first time the grocery chain has put a local expansion on the back burner, according to the Lenoir City codes enforcement office.

Despite Ingles’ seeming reluctance to move forward on expansion, other areas of the city are poised for development. Lenoir City will soon have the convenience of Starbucks, hair salon chain Supercuts and other retailers poised to move to a new strip mall, The Center at Kelsey Lane, a five-unit commercial development on Kelsey Lane at U.S. Highway 321 in front of Food City and across the street from Walmart.

Contractor and land owner True Line Construction, of Bristol, Tenn., projects to open the 10,000-square-foot facility by mid- to late-spring or early summer of next year, K.D. Moore, owner of the construction company, said Wednesday afternoon. Construction crews began clearing the wooded area earlier this week.

“We try to attract national tenants to a region,” Moore said, adding that the company is hoping to snag a frozen yogurt business, which he would not name, and a few more retailers to the development.

“Then we have another deal or two we are working in finalizing, but we can’t say who they are yet,” he said. “But it should be filled the day we open business.”

Moore said AT&T will also make the move to the new development from its current nearby location neighboring Food City at The Market at Town Creek shopping center.

“Anytime you get a great position location for retail to land you want to be able to attract the national tenants like the Starbucks and the AT&Ts,” Moore said. “The old cliche of location, location, location is still true today. ... Everybody wants the better location.”

The development is marked for three interior commercial retail units, and the two outside units will be food related, Lenoir City assistant codes enforcement officer Beth Collins said.

“We are really excited about all the development and things that are going on, but one thing you want to look at when things are being developed is how is that fitting in to your city and can your city support that development, and I think Lenoir City is hungry for that development,” Collins said. “You have a lot of people not just in Lenoir City but in surrounding cities and counties even that have to maybe drive quite a distance to get to multiple shops, and so while it is always good to have maybe a larger store ... it’s always good to have more smaller specialty shops that just gives you more of a variety of a shopping experience, and that always keeps your sales dollars here local.”

Besides snagging a movie cinema this year and ceremonially breaking ground on a Lenoir City Utilities Board main complex on Creekwood Park Boulevard, Collins said she thought Lenoir City is well poised for future development.

“There is a lot going on and a lot coming up. I think this time next year — I think we are just getting started,” Collins said. “I think we are going to have a great development in town without losing our small town feel, which is my goal.”

Moore said True Line Construction, though currently owning the one parcel, is considering more space in the area.

Collins said the Lenoir City Regional Planning Commission on Tuesday evening will consider a site plan approval for a new 2,600-square-foot SunTrust bank building between Regions Bank and Bojangle’s on U.S. Highway 321.

Collins said she thought the movie cinema will help snag future retailers, adding that the city receives inquiries from potential retailers “weekly.”

“I think it’s going well. I know that with development sometimes it can appear from the outside like things aren’t moving, but it is. Things are moving,” she said.

“There is tons of space that can be built out,” Collins said about The Market at Town Creek development. “Right now, what they are looking at is that whole concept where you have the movie theater and then you have buildings that will connect all the way over to Food City that will have different outparcels in them — some smaller, some larger — and the developers are working with potential businesses to secure all of that, but there is a lot of space out there that can be built out.”

Ingles in limbo?

Collins said an expanded Ingles Superstore in Lenoir City will be put on hold until the company resubmits early paperwork. Representatives received site plan approval and the city’s permission to clear trees and grade a pad ready for construction in November 2013 from the city’s planning commission after resuming plans originally considered more than five years ago. Site plan approval expires one year from issuance.

“I have not talked to Ingles in quite a while now,” Collins said. “I had inquired several months ago, reached back out to them just kind of to check in with them and they had said that they were working on several other stores and were still planning on pushing forward with this one. But ... that was several months ago, and I have not heard back from them.

“At this point when they get ready to move forward they will have to resubmit a site plan because they have not moved forward on it,” she added.

Ingles Chief Financial Officer Ron Freeman declined comment on the timeline for the new Lenoir City store.

“We are looking forward to providing an improved store experience for our customers in Lenoir City,” Freeman said in an email correspondence. “We have a long-standing corporate policy of not discussing detailed timetables for future projects until we actually begin construction. There are just too many variables: weather, permits/approvals and managing multiple projects across our 200-plus store base.”

Last year’s proposal included plans for the 80,098-square-foot Ingles Superstore to be constructed adjacent to the current store at the corner of McGhee Boulevard and U.S. Highway 321 and would include a gas station along Highway 321 where the grassy knoll is located. Ingles planned to rent out its current store location to a retail tenant.

Collins said an expired site plan approval is not common but it has happened before, especially in times of economic distress.

“Sometimes if you have a developer that gets site plan approval and then maybe the tenant backs out for some reason or something, so it happens,” she said. “It’s not common, but it does happen and then they can just resubmit and then we will go from there.”