West Point City Council to discuss redevelopment project

Published 4:34 pm Wednesday, June 5, 2019

WEST POINT — The West Point City Council will continue discussion Thursday on whether to use grant funds for a redevelopment project on East 10th Street.

On May 28, the council appeared split on whether to allow the West Point Development Authority to use funds from the city’s Forward Fund Account to purchase blighted land on East 10th Street between Avenues H and I.

According to City Manager Ed Moon, the land is 1.14 acres in size, and there are two warehouses and 18 rental properties on the property. He said at the most recent council meeting that the present owner has “no inclination” to improve the property, and CDR Ventures has entered into a contract for $258,000 to purchase the land.

He said the West Point Development Authority will in turn purchase three-quarters of the property from CDR for $288,000 after the warehouses and most of the rentals have been removed. Moon said the development authority will also have first refusal rights on the rest of the property when CDR attempts to sell it.

The development authority is asking the council for $80,000 from its Forward Fund to assist in the project. According to city documents, the mission of the fund is to encourage sustainable community development projects that further the economic growth of the community, create employment and housing opportunities for residents and generally improve the city. City documents also say the specific focus for the program is the 10th Street redevelopment plan.

West Point Mayor Steve Tramell said the land sits on state opportunity zones, meaning redevelopment efforts could qualify for a tax credit of $3,500 per job if there are two or more jobs created by the development. 

The West Point Development Authority has also had a hand in clearing off two developmental sites on East 10th Street — one between F and G Avenues and one directly across from the suggested location.

West Point Economic Development Director Meghan Duke said the site being discussed by the council has been a point of conversation in the past.

“For several years, people have noticed that property in its current condition, and it makes people feel uncomfortable that is what people see when they enter into the community,” she said.

One of the sticking points mentioned by Councilman Alanteo “Henry” Hutchinson was that there has been money given out of the fund in the past to clear space on East 10th Street, but there hasn’t been any progress.

“We continue to make these purchases without any development being done,” he said. “At some time, you want to see something done.”

He said the council has shown its commitment to redevelop 10th Street, and regardless if the council grants money to this project, it is still committed. He said the council needs to consider if it wants to keep spending money just to clear dirt and wait for something to happen.

“Nothing is being produced besides clearing the dirt,” he said. “Right now, those green houses are an eyesore, but is this really the best business deal?”

Moon said there have been developers interested in building in West Point on 10th Street but have declined because they didn’t want to be across from the blighted site.

Tramell said business deals don’t happen overnight.

“I think the expectation that something is going to happen when the grass has barely taken root on those properties is short-sided,” he said. “It is probably going to take a couple years.”

He said it would be great if somebody showed up tomorrow and announced their intention for a project, but it takes time for those things to happen. However, it will be harder to market the property with the green houses standing, he said.

Based on the terms of the deal, CDR Ventures will control the few properties that are closest to 9th Street where there are about four residences still occupied, according to Duke. She said those properties will be maintained by CDR and bring them up to code.

He said CDR will hold on to those properties as long as it takes for something to happen on that property and then allow the development authority to buy the remaining part of the land.

Duke said one of the reasons the development authority didn’t purchase the property itself is because there are still tenants there.

“Our goal and purpose is not to become a landlord or transition somebody out of their place of residence,” she said.

Additionally, she said the development authority will not have an opportunity to purchase the other quarter of the property until those tenants move away or other living spaces are found for them.

Duke said the development authority would like to have the entire parcel of land, but there is no timeframe as to when that could happen.

As for the funding aspect, Duke said if the city council decides not to grant the funds to the development authority, the economic development entity would have to decide if they want to pay the additional $80,000 to continue with the project.

The development authority is the economic development arm of the city of West Point. The authority has its own board and voting power and its positions are appointed by the city council. The council gives funding to the board through an intergovernmental agreement.

The West Point City Council will meet for a work session at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at West Point City Hall.

The council will meet again at 5:30 p.m. on Monday for a regular business meeting.