Community Redevelopment Authority Approves Financing for 2 GI Projects

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. -- Two big projects for Grand Island are asking for financing from the city before moving forward.

Renovating the Grand Island Mall and replacing Skagway north with a Supersaver. That's what the two projects, totaling $37 million, will do.

"The 5 Points project will involve building a new grocery store just to the north and west of the existing grocery store," said Chad Nabity, the Director of the Grand Island Community Redevelopment Authority. "So they'll keep the existing grocery store open the entire time that they're building the new one, build the new one, they'll essentially close the old one on a Saturday and ideally open the new one on a Sunday or a Monday or a Tuesday, whatever it takes to get things switched over and moved into the new building so that there is very little disruption to neighborhood shopping patterns and so on. And after they do that they'll demolish the existing building and look at building some additional inline store space to the east of the grocery store."

Tim Lowe, the Vice President of Leading and Development for the Staenberg Group said, "What the plan allows for is to take the building which is 150,000 square feet and actually cut a whole through the middle of the building and that will allow us to connect the [Webb Rd.] side to the 281 side and allow vehicles and pedestrians to access both sides of the property and then create 2 buildings with 3 sides of store fronts and retail on each building.

The Staenberg Group, based in St. Louis, is teaming with local developer Ray O'Connor who purchased the mall in March for $1.8 million.

"Ray's a partner on the project, we will work together on the development to implement the development of the project," said Lowe of O'Connor.

Having a Grand Island local so involved in the renovation will ensure good work according to Nabity.

He said, "For the last several years The Grand Island Mall has been owned by an out of state group and they didn't drive by it every day, they didn't see what kind of condition it was in, they didn't drive through the parking lot and have to dodge all the pot holes. So they didn't have any real skin in that game where as with the local developer, we've go somebody who has some skin in the game."

The two projects went before the Community Redevelopment Authority Wednesday asking for tax-increment funding (TIF). The mall project ($22 million total) is seeking $6.4 million and the grocery store project ($15 million total) wants $1.6 million. If approved both projects will help grow Grand Island.

Nabity said, "The Grand Island Mall property is one that is in significant disrepair and what this will do is really preserve and enhance that property. The new grocery store really solidifies that neighborhood commercial district and shows interest in development and redevelopment there."

According to the Community Redevelopment Authority if these projects are passed, including the one that would put a roadway and through the building behind me, they are projected to bring in tens of millions of dollars into Grand Island every year.

"This Assessor is figuring that the valuation at the time of completion will be about $22 million. Right now the assessed valuation on that property is $2 million," said Nabity. "They other thing that they're anticipating from this property is about $25 million in annual sales which with the city sales tax at 1.5% would generate about $375,000 additional dollars a year."

But to make that money, money must be spent. Most of the money will come from bank loans and developer equity. But the TIF for each will be necessary.

"Because of the amount of expense that's required just to try to bring the building back to life it very rarely is feasible," said Lowe. "In projects like this you really need some type of public participation or public assistance to become feasible."

The projects now must be approved by the Planning Commission and City Council before moving forward.