City anticipates Shops at McAlester signing

KEVIN HARVISON | Staff photoThe Shops at McAlester is expected

An anticipated signing of papers regarding financing for the long-awaited Shops at McAlester highway retail project could occur as soon as this coming week.

That's the hope of city of McAlester Economic Development Director Kirk Ridenour, who had previously expected the financing papers between the developer and banks that are involved to be signed this week.

"It was the intention between the developer and the banks to be closed by Friday," Ridenour said Friday afternoon. "It appears the closing will occur next week instead."

What's next?

"Once the loan is closed, they will be able to close on the land," Ridenour said, referring to property where the retail center is projected to be located, at the intersection of Fourteen Street and U.S. Highway 69, also known as the George Nigh Expressway in McAlester.

Once the developer secures the land, a groundbreaking can be set and work at the site can begin, Ridenour said. However, the land can't be closed on until all the financing is secured, he said.

Ridenour said four banks are involved in the project, including two local banks, and two that are out-of-town. Four banks are involved because of the scope and size of the project and the amount of financing involved, he said.  

Developer Burke Collins and Co. has been pursuing the project. The city has signed an agreement with a company he created, called Shops at McAlester, for the new highway retail center.

Plans call for a new retail shopping center as well as restaurants to be constructed at the site where the shopping center is planned, across the highway from Fourteenth Street in the currently empty lot adjacent to Steak 'n Shake. Smaller businesses in the projected area would revolve around anchor stores such as Hobby Lobby, T.J. Maxx, Ross and others.

The agreement calls for the city of McAlester and Pittsburg County to allow Shops at McAlester, through a Tax Increment Financing, or TIF District, to receive the city's and county's portions of sales tax collections from businesses at the highway retail site for either five years or until $5.5 million is collected, whichever comes first. The city has supported the project in part because Collins has said up-front he will pay for constructing the buildings.

Earlier this year, Collins said he expected to have everything ready for a groundbreaking in July, but there were delays and that never materialized.

While Ridenour is hoping the financing closing papers are signed this week and the land closing procedures are quickly completed, he knows there's no guarantee of the timeline at this point.

"As we've seen, delays have occurred," he said. "I'm holding my breath until everything's done."

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com

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