City Council members tonight agreed to pay $150,000 for a traffic signal at College Avenue and Masonic Drive in an effort to help lure Whole Foods Market to Fayetteville.
The money will come from the Transportation Improvement Bond Program voters approved in 2006.
The idea was first proposed by Alderman Justin Tennant as both an investment in potential sales tax revenue, and as a show of support for the long-rumored Whole Foods store, whose developers plan to build a 35,500-square-foot grocery store and three smaller retail shops at 3535 N. College Avenue.
Tennant said based on Whole Foods’ average sales per square foot, the store could generate between $800,000 and $1.3 million in sales tax revenue each year. He said Whole Foods could bring as many as 140 jobs to town as well.
“I want Fayetteville to be known as a city that is willing to help business thrive,” Tennant wrote in a letter to Mayor Lioneld Jordan and city aldermen. “I want to be sure we are looking for the right businesses to partner with, and Whole Foods is unquestionably one of those. It fits perfectly in Fayetteville, and we need to show we are truly a community and a partner in their business plans.”
Alderwoman Adella Gray agreed with Tennant.
“We know that we’re in competition for this establishment,” said Gray. “I think we should do anything we can to let Whole Foods know that we’d like to have them in Fayetteville, and that we’ll work with them in any way that’s reasonable within our budget.”
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department signed off on the traffic signal earlier this year, after traffic estimates showed that the new shopping center could generate 1,500 vehicles trips each day.
City planners said $150,000 should cover the cost of materials for the traffic signal and any road or curb work needed on the city’s side of the development.
“I think it’s a worthy investment for us,” said Mayor Lioneld Jordan. “I really do.”
Jordan said Chief of Staff Don Marr and Chamber of Commerce President Steve Clark have had several meetings with representatives for S.J. Collins Enterprises, the Georgia-based developer of the planned shopping center.
“They seem pretty excited about being here,” said Jordan.
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.