MDA sets new ‘way ahead’ for marketing sites for business, home development
by Paige Rentz
Sep 26, 2013 | 4756 views |  0 comments | 112 112 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The wooded area shown in the background near Lowe's on Alabama 21 is part of the land being marketed by the McClellan Development Authority. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
The wooded area shown in the background near Lowe's on Alabama 21 is part of the land being marketed by the McClellan Development Authority. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
The agency responsible for repurposing McClellan has crafted a new plan that will market 125 acres at the former fort for retail development.

That land — enough space to fit the Oxford Exchange and Oxford Commons shopping centers, with about 30 acres left over — is just the most visible portion of the McClellan Development Authority’s “Way Ahead” plan, approved by the agency’s board on Wednesday.

The plan also calls for industrial, residential, research and commercial development at specific sites at the former Army post. It was prepared by a committee tasked with figuring out how to get investors interested in McClellan, as a number of road and infrastructure projects in the area are set to launch.

Phil Webb, board chairman, said the MDA’s new, more aggressive approach comes as the pieces are falling into place around McClellan over the next year or so.

“You’re going to see the Eastern Parkway nearly finished,” he said. “You’re going to see Pappy Dunn Boulevard finished; you’re going to see more acreage ready to bring well-paying jobs in here ... you’re going to see Iron Mountain Access Road completed, from Jacksonville nearly to Oxford.”

Local officials hope the parkway, now known as Veterans Memorial Parkway, will lure developers because it will create a transportation hub that connects I-20, U.S. 431 and Alabama 21 in northern Anniston, just down the road from the major retail sites at the entrance to McClellan.

The MDA currently has approximately 30 acres available for retail development along Alabama 21 near Lowe’s. The asking price for that piece of property is $1.35 million. For two nearby sites on Summerall Gate Road of 31 and 64 acres, respectively, the MDA is seeking $40,000 an acre. These 125 retail acres near Lowe’s are across Alabama 21 from potential retail development at the site of the Anniston Middle School.

Under the plan approved by the MDA on Wednesday, the asking price for the 64-acre site would be $2.56 million. By comparison, the 70-acre site of the Oxford Exchange sold in 2005 for $10.5 million. Oxford Commons, where Publix opened in February, sits on a 20-acre parcel.

As part of the plan, the MDA will also prioritize clear-cutting and preparing these retail sites as its budget allows.

Members of the committee pushed the idea of target-marketing large parcels of land to major developers who’d be willing to invest in infrastructure for big projects, because the MDA has not had the money to prepare much of the land.

“By this time, we should have invested over $70 million on McClellan in the way of infrastructure improvement to make it a marketable property; we’ve come nowhere close to that,” MDA Executive Director Robin Scott told members of the board.

Mike James, the chair of the committee, said the MDA will have to take a door-to-door sales approach, contacting potential developers about opportunities at the former fort.

“We can have a gold mine here, but if nobody knows it’s here, they’re not going to come dig it up,” he said.

Members of the committee also see potential to market nearly 100 acres of property as a location for a retirement community, with 67 acres to build patio homes for retirees, land zoned for small businesses to the serve the community, and possible conversion of a former non-commissioned officers club into a restaurant.

Additional commercial space is available in the Town Center district of McClellan, where much of the property is labeled as historic and could mean historic restoration tax credits for developers, according to Scott.

The MDA will continue to push land in its industrial park and research and technology park. More than 200 acres, including one 80-acre site, is available for research and technology-based development. Nearly 230 acres remain for development in the industrial park.

A joint effort by local governments and organizations in the county is currently underway to make the area more marketable by completing Pappy Dunn Boulevard, the major thoroughfare through the industrial park, as well as clearing land, landscaping, and adding lighting and other infrastructure improvements.

On Tuesday night, the Oxford City Council voted to sign on to this effort, known as the McClellan Area Regional Development Compact. With Oxford on board, every local government in Calhoun County, as well as organizations and institutions such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Council, Jacksonville State University and Gadsden State Community College, have agreed to support economic development at McClellan.

Webb said this sort of cooperation is huge. “To see the entire county come together, everyone to say we understand the importance of bringing well-paying jobs to the county and region, and we understand McClellan is a big factor in that ... It’s hard to put into words.”

In other business, the board:

— Approved a $1.54 million budget for fiscal year 2014.

— Added four three-story, cinder-block barracks to the demolition list.

— Approved demolition priorities for the coming fiscal year.

— Re-elected board officers: Phil Webb as chair, Mike James as vice chair, Eric Stringer as secretary and Jim Farrell as treasurer.

Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.
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