Restaurant wanted for former Chevron lot

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Although no deal is yet in the works, two local developers have expressed interest in a pair of lots on the corner of Fifth Street and Fifth Avenue North, according to Columbus Redevelopment Authority Chairwoman Marthalie Porter.

ARC began marketing these properties on July 15 in hopes of making them a gateway to the future redevelopment of the adjacent Burns Bottom neighborhood. Both lots were listed on commercial real estate website Loopnet – with the former Holiday Chevron priced at $429,000 and the former tattoo parlor lot at $129,000. He also placed a “For Sale” sign on properties facing Fifth Street.

“We only got our registration last week. We have already had two calls about this. We thought that was great,” Porter said.

CRA Vice President Mark Alexander Sr. said he would like to see a restaurant occupy the corner lot, leaving the smaller lot for parking or office space.

Mark Alexander Sr.

“We would like a type of national restaurant to settle in this corner,” said Alexander. “Then if they need that smaller piece of land, we’d sell it to them as well. But if they don’t, maybe set up a building for a small or medium business, kind of like where Starbucks is. (on Hwy 45). Something like that.”

The authority purchased the lots for a combined $348,200 in 2019 and completed cleanup efforts at the site in May.

The cleanup included the demolition of two buildings, the removal of underground gas tanks and environmental testing to ensure there was no ground pollution from the tanks, Porter said.

Burns Bottom Progress
The newly marketed properties connect to the east with the Burns Bottom Urban Renewal Project which the ARC first undertook when it was established in 2015.

The ARC targeted 73 parcels in a five-block area near the Lowndes County football complex – between Third and Fourth Streets North and Second and Seventh Avenues North – to convert long run-down properties into developments multiple uses of higher value, including residential and commercial.

Alexander said the entire project area could, in theory, be divided into six different developments and add up to 100 single-family homes or duplexes. About 15% of the area would be commercial, he said.

“So if a small developer wanted to do 15, we’d have part of the project for them, and if they wanted to do 30 in the bigger block, we can do that,” Alexander said.

In 2017, City Council approved the issuance of a $3.2 million bond for ARC to purchase lots in the redevelopment area and begin preparing the land for marketing.

To date, the CRA has purchased all but two lots, its attorney Jeff Turnage said, and still has $500,000 of bond money in the bank. These funds are needed to acquire and demolish structures on the final two lots, Turnage said, as well as begin road and infrastructure upgrades.

This will not be sufficient for all necessary upgrades.

Porter said the CRA is seeking an additional $6.4 million for roads, water, sewer and broadband. He requested $1 million from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds, but did not receive it. The ARC also lobbies the state legislature, the Mississippi Development Authority, and the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal agency created to help with economic development.

“We haven’t gotten any funds from anybody yet. We were just trying to do a bullet approach to anybody,” Porter said. “Maybe we can get some here and there and then bring them together, so we’re still working on that.

Robert Rhet

The ARC is also keeping $450,000 from the 2018 sale of the former Lee Middle School property on Military Road. The money could help Burns Bottom’s infrastructure, but board member Robert Rhett said it was earmarked for a different future use.

“We’re really trying to hold that back to buy more downgraded properties if possible,” Rhett said.

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