Project K-atastrophe?

Part of the construction site with the Clock Tower in the background - Photo by Melissa Parker
Part of the construction site with the Clock Tower in the background - Photo by Melissa Parker

Prattville – Construction of The Exchange at HomePlace or Project K as it was previously known has begun. Earth moving machines are bustling around the area at the corner of Cobbs Ford Road and Highway 82 Bypass.

The go ahead for the project was given last October when the City Council approved the 266,000 square-foot shopping center by a vote of 5-2 (with Argo and Gillespie opposing it). The anchors are to include Kohl’s, Hobby Lobby, and Academy Sports and Outdoors.

Councilman Dean Argo, a dissenter, was very concerned about the economy and that’s why he voted against it. Apparently that was a valid concern, as the neighboring High Point Town Center is essentially void of the upscale stores that were planned for the that lifestyle center. The Teaching Tree, the Avon retail store, and Royal Nails just don’t seem to fit the upscale description (Ann Taylor they are not).

Bear in mind also that there are several Prattville stores in the process of closing. Goody’s and Circuit City are going out of business, and with the bleak economic outlook, other major chains may follow this year. This economic downturn certainly sheds light on why Argo’s caution may have been warranted in this case.

Urban sprawl has reared its ugly head along the East South Boulevard in Montgomery, from Woodley Road to the Troy Highway and beyond. Super Kmart, the old Wal-Mart shopping center, and Montgomery Mall are prime examples of this trend. Could this also happen to Prattville?

An incentives package for The Exchange at HomePlace was approved by the Prattville City Council. That package includes the city refunding 50% of its share of sales tax collected at the shopping center up to a ceiling of $9 million dollars. This money will help the builders defray the cost of constructing the shopping center.

Mayor Byard has been a chief proponent and architect of the many incentives packages used to bring Bass Pro Shops and the other big box retailers to the city. Examples of which can be seen daily as drivers traverse Cobbs Ford Road.

Many citizens of Prattville were against the rapid growth of this area. Mayor Byard has attempted many times to assuage their fears, assuring them that this is all part of the process of a growing community, though some still remain unconvinced. Will the citizens of Prattville eventually have to pay a price for all of these developments?

The mayor was contacted by Our Prattville via email and he has chosen not to respond to this news outlet regarding questions about the Exchange.

Publisher’s Note: On 2/26/09 Our Prattville received an email correspondence from Mayor Jim Byard. He made the following comments concerning the Exchange Shopping Center: “The Center will be home to three nationally known retailers, amounting to just over 270,000 square feet of retail space. I am still bound by confidentiality agreements and cannot release the names of the retailers, however I look forward to the day that I can announce these new stores. We will be announcing these stores and having a ground breaking ceremony in the coming weeks.”

“This project will mean about $750,000 worth of non-recurring revenue-meaning business licenses, permits, and the like, during construction directly to the City of Prattville. Of course this does not include payrolls. During these tough economic times, and especially during this budget year, this is great news, and these revenues will come in helpful. Some folks are skeptical about adding retail, however during today’s business climate, these retailers can choose locations anywhere in the U. S. They are very selective when adding new outlets and I am proud that Prattville has been chosen.”

Article by Marc Parker

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