McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

March 5, 2014

Developer wants to build Pilot Travel Center

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — A developer who already operates a Pilot Travel Center at Choctaw’s I-40 exit has plans to build another in Enid.

The facility will go inside a building that has laid dormant for several years, located on the south side of U.S. 412 at 42nd.

Andy Geller presented his vision to the Enid city commissioners Tuesday and asked for a sales tax rebate to incentivize his construction. Geller said he would end up spending about up to $3.5 million purchasing and renovating the truck stop.

The incentive, drawn up by Enid Regional Development Alliance, would rebate 1 percent of each taxable dollar spent at the store. The rebate expires after four years or when it reaches $102,112, whichever comes first.

ERDA Executive Director Brent Kisling said the half-renovated truck stop was known by other names in the past.

“It kind of depends on generational status here in the community. But it’s the truck stop on the east side of town that laid vacant for a considerable amount of time,” he said.

Gellar noted the previous owner tried to renovate it but stopped work after it caught fire. No one at Tuesday’s informal study session could recall the last time it was open for business.

“We’re basically going to take the whole inside and scrape it except for the coolers,” Gellar said. “It’s going to be a modern, non-mom-and-pop facility. We’re all about the brand. We’re all about the customer service. And we’re all about the community.”

He said the truck stop probably will include a Subway eatery, and he’s extending the building by 16 feet with the expectation of adding a second food choice.

“We don’t know what it is. We’re not really looking to do an independent diner,” he said.

Gellar has been talking to several chains but ruled out Wendy’s and IHOP.

“I’m completely open to suggestions,” he told the commission. “We’re here to make money, but part of making money is serving the community and giving them what they want.”

Kisling said ERDA was contacted several months ago by Gellar to ask for assistance.

“We tried to work through this a number of different angles. I’ve put in this proposal the three filters that we run anything through as a community, whenever we look to invest in retail,” he said.

Those benchmarks include the following:

• Does it increase Enid’s trade area?

• Does it close a retail gap?

• Does it clean up a dilapidated structure along one of the city’s major thoroughfares?

Kisling said it was the third option that let the proposal clear his office.

“It will be a beautiful facility for us to have for folks as they enter into our community,” he said.

Gellar said the travel center will have both heavy truck and regular auto entrances.

“That way, people feel comfortable coming in with their kids and they don’t feel like they’re in a truck stop. It’s pretty upscale,” he said.

After permitting is finished, he suspects it could be ready for open within four months. Commissioners will consider the incentive when they meet again in two weeks.