WR Oxford LLC, which is developing a Publix Super Market and retail complex in Oxford, has an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Alabama Historic Preservation Office and the Muscogee Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The agreement sets out rules for dealing with any Indian remains or artifacts discovered at the site.
“We don’t expect any delays due to our coordinated efforts and our agreed-upon procedures,” said Lisa Goghlan, deputy public affairs officer for the Mobile district of the corps.
The agreement is similar to one the city of Oxford obtained after construction of its multi-million dollar sports complex project was delayed for more than a year after ancient remains were found at the site, Goghlan said.
“If remains or artifacts are discovered, the developer must immediately notify the corps,” Goghlan said of both projects. “Pre-approved procedures will be implemented in the event that remains or artifacts are discovered.”
Both the sports complex project and the Publix retail project are located on separate sections of the historic Davis Farm, adjacent to Leon Smith Parkway. Many artifacts have been discovered at Davis Farm since the late 1980s, many by Harry Holstein, professor of archaeology and anthropology at Jacksonville State University.
Holstein said he and teams of college students have found ancient tools, spearheads and pottery at the site over the years.
Holstein said he suspects construction crews will likely uncover more artifacts and possibly even human remains at the Publix site.
“There are likely many things below the surface that still ought to be intact,” Holstein said.
Holstein said evidence indicates the Davis Farm land once contained a large American Indian village. He said the site was likely an ideal spot for a community due to the nearby creek and spring.
Construction workers uncovered ancient human remains at the nearby sports complex site in February 2010. The corps shut down the project soon after the discovery.
It was not until June of this year when the city and the corps had settled negotiations with the Muscogee Nation and the project was allowed to move forward. The nation was consulted because it had the closest cultural affiliation to the site.
The stalling of the project cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction contract delay fees.
Oxford Mayor Leon Smith announced in late June that a 49,098 square-foot Publix Super Market would open in the fall of 2012 as part of large retail complex called Oxford Commons. In addition to Publix, the complex will include retail, business and restaurant outlets, details of which have not yet been officially released.
A date for when construction will begin has also not been released. However, with the city and its Commercial Development Authority having recently approved a $7 million bond issue funding agreement for the site prep work, there is nothing else left to hold up construction.
Attempts to reach Oxford city officials for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561.