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Thrift Thompson shopping complex moving forward

By JON HAWLEY

Staff Writer

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The developer of a $20 million-plus shopping complex next to Elizabeth City’s Walmart is moving through an “expedited process” to start construction by September, City Manager Rich Olson said Friday.

Indiana-based Thompson Thrift’s goal remains to open the shopping center in summer 2015, Olson said, adding numerous stores next to the Walmart complex on Halstead Boulevard Extended. Olson said Sleepy’s mattress store will join the complex, along with the previously announced Hobby Lobby, Ross and TJ Maxx. Discussions with other stores continue.

The land Thompson Thrift wants is still owned by the Conlon Companies, which platted but didn’t develop the land in 2009, Olson said. That plat’s approval expired, but it still provides a good template for the project, and Olson said the main change is revising the plat to include the large main shopping complex on the north side of the lot. Conlon had envisioned smaller retail establishments on the land, Olson said.

Olson said Thompson Thrift has retained Camden-based Hyman and Robey for project planning. The engineering firm has worked on numerous city projects over the years, Olson said, meaning they’re very familiar with the city’s requirements for the development.

That means Thompson Thrift should be able to turn in plans that won’t need many changes, moving the project through its local approvals quickly. Once the new preliminary plat is submitted, it’ll go to the city’s technical review committee.

If that committee approves the project, Thompson Thrift’s next move will be securing state water, sewer, storm-water, erosion control and other permits. The developer will also pay the state extra, Olson said, for expedited permit reviews. The project must also be approved by the city council before construction can start, Olson said, but it won’t come before council until the developer has all necessary state permits.

Thompson Thrift’s major concern with the state lies with the Department of Transportation, Olson said, which is pressing the company spend more on traffic control based on a “traffic impact analysis” of the corridor. DOT’s preferred design would add several hundred thousand dollars to the project, Olson said. City and Pasquotank County staff hope to meet with the city councilors and county commissioners later this month to discuss the complex’s traffic needs and a predevelopment agreement between DOT and Thompson Thrift.

The Thompson Thrift complex’s exact costs and store composition is still unknown, Olson said.

While Olson said he’s seen different cost estimates for the project, the developer will be held to the terms of last year’s “business investment program” agreement with the city and county. Both bodies have agreed to rebate property taxes to the complex provided at least $20 million is invested there, including money the developer and tenant stores spend. If it meets that threshold, the company would be rebated 15 years’ worth of property taxes or $2.2 million total, whichever comes first.

Though it’s not a requirement of the city-county agreement, both bodies are also expecting the center to generate at least 200 jobs.