City Council members next month will consider spending $150,000 to encourage a major national retailer to build a store in Fayetteville.
Georgia-based S.J. Collins Enterprises, a company that builds Whole Foods Market stores, submitted preliminary designs to city planners earlier this month for a major shopping center at 3535 N. College Ave. The plans show a 35,500-square-foot grocery store and three smaller shop spaces with roughly 330 parking spaces.
Because of the size of the project, officials with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department have recommended that a new traffic signal be built at Masonic Drive to handle an estimated 1,500 vehicles trips the new shopping center could generate each day.
The documents didn’t name any specific tenants for the new development, but preliminary elevation drawings included a Whole Foods Market logo on the front facade of the building.
Normally when a new development creates a need – or a partial need – for traffic improvement, the developer is required to pay for the cost of construction or its proportionate share of the improvement.
One Fayetteville alderman, however, has suggested that the city pay the full cost to install the traffic signal at the proposed Whole Foods location as both an investment in potential sales tax revenue, and a show of support for the long awaited arrival of the Austin, Texas-based chain.
“I believe they (Whole Foods) are looking for a true partnership with Fayetteville and this is our opportunity to be that partner,” said Ward 3 Alderman Justin Tennant in an email to City Attorney Kit Williams. “If they do come to Fayetteville, it will be the most significant commercial project to come in years.”
Tennant said based on Whole Foods’ average sales per square foot, the store could generate between $800,000 and $1.3 million in city sales tax revenue each year. He said Whole Foods could bring as many as 140 jobs to town as well.
“This is more payroll, more initial job creation, and more sales tax revenue than any other business in Fayetteville in a number of years,” wrote Tennant.
Tennant said the $150,000 estimate would cover the cost of materials for the traffic signal and any road or curb work needed on the city’s side of the development. His proposal states that the city would only be required to build the intersection if Whole Foods does indeed build a store at the proposed location.
Planning Commissioners recently approved two driveways for the shopping center on College Avenue – one at the north end of the property where traffic will be restricted to right turns only, and another at Masonic Drive where the signal would be built.
Developers will be required to include two access easements to eventually allow vehicles to enter the shopping center from Longview Street and Plainview Avenue.
Aldermen are set to discuss the proposal during the next City Council meeting on May 6. The city’s Planning Commission will consider the actual development plans later that month.