A proposed new shopping center in East Ridge is now one step closer to becoming reality, although its developers say it could be years before shoppers are in any new stores.
City officials closed the land sale with developers on Friday.
"This is exciting is because this will be the first major retail development in East Ridge in at least the last 20 years," Mayor Brent Lambert said.
Exit One, LLC, Development Group bought the 27-acre swath of land -- dubbed Jordan Crossing -- that's located off Interstate 75 at the Ringgold Road exit.
"As far as developing the property, we can really move ahead full steam now," said John Healy, a partner at Elder Healy Commercial Real Estate, who brokered the deal.
City officials purchased the land from the state and immediately sold it to developers for $107,000, City Manager Tim Gobble said. The city spent another $11,000 in legal fees and appraisals, which the developers also reimbursed as part of the deal.
"The city is out absolutely nothing in this process," Lambert said. "The developers have footed the bill and repaid the city for everything."
The shopping center could be completed in the next year or it could take as long as four years, Healy said.
"It's still a long way off, but we don't intend to buy the property and sit on it," he said. "We will take our time and wait for the right development for the city, something that's mutually beneficial to the residents and to us."
He said he hopes the development will draw shoppers from outside the city limits.
"The highest and best use for that site would be a regional retailer -- something that would market to the greater Chattanooga area and North Georgia in a 30-mile radius," he said.
The proposed 300,000-square foot center could bring at least an additional $1.5 million to the city in sales tax revenues, Lambert said.
"Which almost doubles what we get currently," he said. "It could have a significant impact that way, and I think the development will bring enough positive energy that others will follow."
Those sales tax revenues could climb even higher, Lambert said, if the development is large enough to trigger East Ridge's status as a Border Region. The city received the designation in June from the Tennessee's Commissioner of Revenue and the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development.
Under the designation, if Jordan Crossing attracts at least 1 million customers annually and requires an initial investment of $20 million, East Ridge would be able to claim 75 percent of the state sales tax that's collected for the next 30 years.
But the development faces several challenges: much of the property is in a flood plain and will need to be raised about six feet before it can be built on, and the planned redesign of the I-24, I-75 interchange could impact the site's accessibility.
"We want to make sure that when TDOT redoes this interchange, it's a positive thing for East Ridge," Healy said. "You want people getting off at that exit."
Gobble said the proposed facility is an important step for East Ridge.
"We think it has a potential to really start a makeover and redevelopment of our city," he said. "We would just say it takes time."
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476.