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IDA plans anew for Rochichi marina

SoVaNow.com / August 07, 2013
Hoping to revitalize a long-held goal to bring a new marina at Rochichi Point, the Mecklenburg County Industrial Development Authority agreed yesterday to look for a new developer after the failure by M&J Developers to move forward on the proposed Willow Grove Marina.

Mecklenburg County IDA members heard Economic Development Director Angie Kellett describe Mecklenburg County’s latest steps to develop the property at the IDA monthly meeting Tuesday. “We are seeking requests for proposals from companies interested in developing the site,” said Kellett.

The 200-acre site was once slated to become the site of a $2.5 million marina, lodging, tennis and picnic areas, fishing piers, beaches, and more, until the developer ran into financing and licensing problems. In March, the Board of Supervisors agreed to terminate the county’s sublease agreement with M & J Development for failing to honor the terms and conditions of its agreement.

Other sought-after development projects for the site, which is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, included a residential development, hotel conference center, and cultural center. The project envisioned by M & J was valued at $100 million.

By the end of 2010, developers had promised but never completed installation of a 135-slip marina and a ship’s store. The store was built, but not opened, and construction never began on the marina. At the time, Tracey Norvelle with M&J blamed the weather and administrative issues for the company’s failure to deliver on their promise.

Kellett said Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative has run electric lines through the property, and there are existing gravel roads. Over the next few weeks county workers will begin clearing brush from around the property, hoping to make it more appealing to potential developers.

Kellett is hoping that a new developer will considering a project similar to the one envisioned by M&J. The county would like to have a new lease in place by October. Responses to the county’s RFP will be due at the end of September.

In other business, the IDA is looking into whether to construct a shell building in the Roanoke River Industrial Park. Flush with nearly $1.2 million, which came from the sale of the building that once housed Home Care Industries, IDA members expressed a willingness to consider construction of a new building, if costs and financing were favorable.

Kellett said she and County Administrator Wayne Carter discussed, with a small group of advisors, whether Mecklenburg County would benefit from having a shell building. Currently there are only three government-owned buildings in the state. She also believes that it will “draw traffic to the county” of companies interested in relocating.

After some board members expressed surprise, Carter told them that in the past year every company that has looked into relocating to Mecklenburg County has asked if there are existing buildings available — even those companies that ultimately purchased land for their own construction designs.

Most companies are looking for, on average, an 80,000 square foot building. But for financial reasons, Kellett is suggesting the IDA construct a 50,000 square foot building that could be easily expanded by a tenant or purchaser.

Member Billy Driggs asked why the shell building would be built in South Hill instead of the Kinderton Technology Park in Clarksville. “We would use this building to hopefully attract a distribution or advanced manufacturing business,” explained Kellett, “and Kinderton is set up for high-tech businesses.”

No formal vote was taken, as the committee lack a quorum. Still Kellett said she will work on assembling financing and cost information before the next meeting.

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