200 Coalition gets year-end report

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By Amy Ryffel-Kragh

At the last S.R. 200 Coalition meeting of the year, the lagging economy was the topic of discussion as many businesses and residential approved lots sit empty along the Corridor.

Pat Gabriel, Coalition president, estimated the square footage of vacant retail parcels and residential approved lots to be in the hundreds of thousands. She worked with the Board of Realtors and a few real estate businesses in obtaining her figures.

For instance, the old Publix at Steeplechase Plaza remains empty, since the grocery store moved to its new building. And it may stay that way for a while. Gabriel said no one has filed a permit for the space.

Some other stores moving out include the Starbucks near Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The coffee giant will be closing after the holidays, as well as the location at the Market Street at Heathbrook, Gabriel said. In addition, a mattress store, which was supposed to go in near Bealls, decided not to open the business.

Though there have been numerous business closings, there have been some openings, too.

Down at the Market Street at Heathbrook, Gabriel ran down the list of stores that have opened, which includes aclothing store, Fresh Produce. Among the other businesses that have opened at the new open-air mall are Panera Bread, Flint Creek Outfitters, Mimi’s Café, Dillards, and Old Navy, among others.

However, there are still plenty of empty spaces at the shopping center.

The Berkshire Oaks shopping mall seems to be doing better. The center, which has anchor stores like Kohl’s, Petco and hhgregg, has recently opened Mattress Firm and Gator’s Dockside. And, McAlister’s Deli restaurant should be opening at the shopping plaza soon.

Residential vacancies Gabriel said she was curious to see just how many empty residential lots are in the Corridor. She focused on areas near Cherrywood Estates, Freedom Public Library, Sun Valley and along the Corridor down to the Wal-Mart.

The numbers she came up with excluded On Top of the World.

She found that 8,900 lots have been platted or approved for development in the Corridor, which does not include lots approved in the city limits. In addition, Gabriel informed the audience about an amendment that will probably be on the ballot in 2010. The Hometown Democracy Amendment would make developers get approval from the public for any major land use changes. After Gabriel was finished giving the latest happenings, new elected Marion County School Board member, Jackie Porter, briefly spoke to the crowd. Throughout the meeting, guests munched on an array sandwiches, desserts and other goodies as the meeting was their annual holiday party.

As they do each year, the organization gave each guest a number and did a drawing for a table full of wrapped gifts. Once all the numbers were drawn, each person in attendance received a Christmas gift courtesy of the S.R. 200 Coalition.