Developer seeks incentives for $20 million shopping district in Shawnee

Tim Burg, director of the Shawnee Economic Development Foundation, says the Shawnee area is “hemorrhaging” its sales tax dollars to other communities like Midwest City as shoppers make trips to bigger retail stores that are not offered here.

But that could soon change as a Dallas, Texas-based retail developer is working to bring a $20 million anchored shopping district with major retailers to the city of Shawnee.

If all goes forward for the “Shawnee Marketplace” project, new stores could open in the area of Interstate 40 and Kickapoo Street by the end of 2014.

Jeff Williams, who is president of Hunt Properties, Inc., said Phase 1 of the project calls for 100,000 square feet of retail space, with four to six retailers on 20 acres of the initial development area west of the Burger King and Delta Café.

With this project three years in the making, Hunt Properties is now seeking incentives from the city of Shawnee and Pottawatomie County and hope to break ground in early 2014, Williams confirmed.

“We’ve requested incentives to make the project feasible,” Williams said.

“This is a big deal,” Burg said, adding this development would be the second biggest in Pottawatomie County history — second only to Shawnee Mall.

“It will bring significant job creation and significant new sales tax collection for the city and county,” Burg said, and would benefit many areas, including the schools.

The six retailers in Phase 1 would have spaces of anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 square feet each, with the main entrance for Phase 1 planned to be off Kickapoo Street.

While Williams said he couldn’t specify the exact requests for incentives at this point, he confirmed it’s what’s been done in other cities with similar retail centers.

The company is currently finishing up projects in Lawton and Enid, among other areas, he said, and believes Shawnee is a good location.

“Shawnee is a regional shopping center destination,” Williams said.

Burg said Shawnee and Pottawatomie County loses about $50 million in sales opportunities each year when people shop in other communities, including Midwest City.

“Think of I-40 like a salmon stream — the net is 30 miles west but we need the net to be at exit 185,” Burg said.

With the city of Shawnee getting three cents sales tax and the county having a one-penny tax, that kind of sales volume being lost could add another $1.5 million to the local operating budgets here each year, he said.

“It affects quality of life,” Burg said, as sales tax dollars provide money for roads, police and fire and other government-run services.

And while neither Burg or Williams would divulge just yet who the major retailers for the Shawnee development could be, Burg said they are “brand names we do not have,” and shoppers won’t need to drive west.

Hunt Properties has recently completed other developments, including the $45 million Lawton Marketplace. According to news reports, the development in Lawton includes stores such as PetsMart and TJ Maxx.

While a marketplace here could attract local shoppers, it also could create “magnetism” to Shawnee, Burg said, and pull in shoppers from Harrah and Choctaw, and those further east of Shawnee, not to mention from points north and south.

That’s important, Burg said, because about 40 percent of a community’s sales tax collections often derive from shoppers who don’t live in the community.

Other than a Walmart in Henryetta, Burg said there’s no other retail development between Shawnee and Ft. Smith, Ark.

Burg said several factors have affected Shawnee’s sale tax since 2001, including major growth of the retail stores in other communities.

“We’ve grown as a population but we haven’t had consumer choices,” Burg said.

While the initial Phase 1 calls for more than 100,000 square feet, Burg indicated the entire project with Phase 2 could have as much as 400,000 square feet of retail space.

“This is a no brainer — this is excellent for our community,” Burg said.

“We can either embrace new retail or let tax dollars go in another city’s pocket,” Burg said.

“This development will provide those options,” he added.

City of Shawnee staff are evaluating the project, Burg said.

And while it will likely be a topic at some point before the city commission, for now, at least, the project — and the request for incentives — is expected to be discussed during Monday’s Pottawatomie Board of County Commissioners meeting as there’s an agenda item concerning economic development.

County Commissioner Randy Thomas, who said he is excited to see if they can help this project come to fruition, said if he could bring one-quarter of the development to this area that’s in Midwest City now, he’ll “do backflips.”

While he didn’t know yet all the details of what may be asked of them, Thomas said it will likely take the City of Shawnee and Pottawatomie County working together.

“We need to lock our arms around this,” Thomas said, adding it will provide new jobs and a new tax base.

According to Hunt Properties, Shawnee is a retail trade area that currently serves about 176,121 people.

Watch for updates.