Emporia plans for expansion
Some City of Emporia officials are looking toward growth at the intersection of Industrial and 24th.
The $44 million plan includes a 39-acre tract that a developer has acquired a purchase option on. This development project is called Emporia Pavilions and is a few years from becoming tangible.
“It’s still a proposition, rather than a reality,” said Jim Witt, assistant city manager. “There’s a long way to go. They do not have any signed leases or contracts, but they started the processes, but they’re far from finished.”
If the proposition goes through, the building would include several new stores.
“The proposal is to build, or attract, a site for a home improvement store and a grocery store as the two primary anchor tenants and then possibly two or three restaurants,” said Kent Heermann, president of the regional development association of east central Kansas.
According to Spencer Thomson, attorney, developer and one of the partners proposing the build, the final product would have around 10,000 square feet. While he and the group that he is speaking for are excited about the project, they won’t be able to start until they get the green light from Emporia.
“Right now, we’re waiting for a market study that’s being prepared at the request of the city, paid for by our team to make sure that an outside professional, with experience in studying the market demands of retail users, and so forth, is confident that there’s a market that we think exists there, and that there’s a demand for what we’re proposing,” Thomson said.
Thomson said the reason he and his partners believe they stand to make a profit is because of leakage, which means that citizens of Emporia travel outside of the city to fulfill certain shopping needs.
“There’s quite a bit of tax dollars and investment that could be spent inside Emporia by Emporians and surrounding communities that are going to other communities because the services are not there, the product is not there to meet the demand in our opinion,” Thomson said.
According to Heermann the process by which the city of Emporia and this group came together was almost accidental. The city manager Matt Zimmerman, Heerman and RDA chair John Guyes went to the International conference of shopping centers.
“We happened to be at an event where we met Mr. Thomson and began some conversations with him. He’d actually been working on securing purpose option on that property for well over a year, and once he had that secure, we started having some conversations about his project,” Heerman said. “We found him, but he eventually would have found us.”
The development group believes that if the project makes it through all the initial paperwork and finally starts, it could be very beneficial to Emporia.
“If these guys are willing to risk hundreds of thousands of dollars to try and get those stores here, what do we have to lose?” Heermann said.