Firm looking at local site for retail project

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A major project could be coming to the property that currently houses J.C. Penney.

During his report to the Blytheville City Council's Code Enforcement Committee Tuesday afternoon, city inspector Rick Ash said he is not at liberty to name the company that is looking at the 301 S. Service Road building, though the proposal would greatly benefit the city.

He noted the organization is still working on cost estimates of fixing issues with the building as well as possible expenses of adding buildings to the property, which was once home to a Walmart store.

"If everything comes to fruition, if they can get the property and work everything out -- I'd prefer to let the mayor make the announcement -- but it could be several jobs and anywhere from three to five additional retail outlets," Ash said after the meeting. "I think if it comes to fruition, it will be a very good thing."

Ash had no timeframe for the project, though he told the committee once final plans are in hand he would be happy to show them.

Wednesday morning, Blytheville Mayor James Sanders declined to get into specific details about the potential project.

"We have been informed that these are prospects," Sanders said. "Nothing has been finalized. We're just trying to show ourselves in the best light and hope that people see us and recognize us and would want to establish a business here. I feel that one of the best ways to boost the local economy directly is through retail."

He added Blytheville being one of only 12 communities around the state to earn the 2012 Arkansas Volunteer Community of the Year Award helps the cause of luring businesses here.

The mayor encouraged residents to speak positively of Blytheville and consider that it could be a potential business checking out the area -- some of whom may be wearing casual clothing.

Sanders added Blytheville is a great place to live and raise a family.

Meanwhile, Tuesday, Ash also reported that Dogwood Cottages is looking at alternative ways of getting dirt that it needs for the affordable housing venture at Dogwood and Highway 61.

He expects work to begin shortly on the project, which will include 18 duplex homes (36 units) being built by Springfield, Mo.-based Gardner Capital.

Ash said work is progressing at the future Shipley's Donuts, whose Main Street building could be finished in a month.

In other business, the board discussed beefing up code enforcement with more code enforcement officers.

Blytheville Police Chief Ross Thompson suggested adding two code enforcement officers to the staff, noting the current two officers are often pulled in several different directions.

"We have a lack of manpower in code enforcement," said Councilman John Musgraves, who chairs the committee.

Councilwoman Missy Langston suggested looking for cuts so that the city could add more code officers. She said code enforcement needs to be proactive rather than reactive.

Ash pointed out there should be a crew in place to tackle the problem properties and then bill the owners.

Blytheville Police Department Capt. Damon Travis said code enforcement generated 56 cases in October, clearing 45 cases. The Code Enforcement office sent 56 certified letters, with a postage cost of $518, and issued 52 citations, Travis said.

Musgraves noted, in October, on Delmar, there were four electric meters pulled because of bad wiring and four water meters pulled on because of an unpaid bill. The meters were located at 803, 805, 807 and 809 Delmar. Musgraves said, on Oct. 25, an electric meter was pulled at 2301 Caroline St.; there were four apartments connected to one meter, he said.

Ash and Entergy were both notified, and the property owners were contacted and shown why the meter was disconnected. On Oct. 30, 809 B Delmar's meter was pulled for the second time. Entergy was notified and a police report was taken, Musgraves said.