With no developer, Food City center subject to change

Nathan Baker • May 23, 2014 at 1:05 PM

The layout and size of a proposed shopping center on State of Franklin Road could be different than originally planned and approved now that Food City parent company K-VA-T Food Stores will proceed on its own without the former developer.

Company CEO Steve Smith said Thursday he wasn’t aware of all the details behind Brentwood-based GBT Realty’s abandonment of the $20 million project, but said he is still committed to building one of Food City’s flagship stores on the 18-acre parcel currently owned by Mountain States Health Alliance.

“There was a relationship between Mountain States and the developer, they had an agreement to build our store, and part of the deal was they had to develop other outparcels and things like that,” Smith said. “Something happened and they backed out, it actually came down to the last day they were supposed to close on the property. It definitely troubled us, because we still want to build a store there.”

Smith said K-VA-T is now working with Mountain States and its real estate representative, Johnson City’s Corridor Properties, to potentially close on the product and develop the land on its own.

The health system’s CEO, Alan Levine, said he hopes the talks with the grocery chain are fruitful.

“I spoke with Steve Smith myself, he’s got a great company, and we would like to find a way to make it work for them,” Levine said. “I was very sorry to hear the developer pulled out.”

But Hank Carr, owner of Corridor Properties, said he’s still entertaining other interests in the heavily trafficked property.

“We continue to talk to interested parties, but clearly Food City has invested a lot into this process,” Carr said. “We’re having an ongoing conversation with them, and are looking for a way to consummate this deal with them. In the end, we want to do what has the greatest economic benefits to the community, and certainly to Mountain States.”

The original plan proposed by GBT, which was still hosted on the company’s website as of Thursday night, included a 705-space parking lot, 82,000 square feet of retail space, 59,500 square feet of grocery store space, 7,000 square feet of bank space, 18,000 square feet of restaurant space and a fuel center affiliated with the grocery store.

In February, Smith said the company intended to build one of the largest stores in its three-state chain, including a coffee bar, fresh sushi, a 48-seat upscale cafe and an in-store meat smoker.

Now that GBT is out of the picture, he said K-VA-T still plans to build a grocery store with the same footprint, but it’s too early to say what might happen to the other stores in the original plan.

The grocery store, which was scheduled to be open for business this fall, will now be an early 2015 project at the earliest, he said.

K-VA-T works with outside developers for about half of its stores and is its own landlord the other half of the time, the CEO said.

“It’s not rare,” he said. “Sometimes when it’s tough to get financing, we just choose to do it ourselves.”

With the plan likely to change, Smith said he’s not sure if the company will be required to seek approval from the Johnson City Commission for the development.

After a drawn-out rezoning process last year centered on the traffic concerns of nearby residents and commissioners, the commission approved changing the property’s zoning from MS-1 (Medical Services) to B-4 (Planned Arterial Business) in November by a 4-1 vote at third reading.

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