Retail development proposed for Lee County - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Retail development proposed for Lee County

April 3, 2007

Lee County-  A North Carolina developer plans to construct two new retail developments on more than 100 acres purchased from Oakland Plantation's business partners. The development will go up along Highway 82 and will include more than 900,000 square feet of retail space.

Right now, the 100 acres just purchased by an un-named North Carolina developer is mostly fields and trees, but over the next several years, that developer is planning to put up two new high-end retail developments, one that will be individual chain type retailers and a second open-air mall that would compare to similar locations in Atlanta or Destin, Florida.

Century 21 moved from Dawson Road to Highway 82 six years ago when development along 82 was scarce. Tuesday's announcement of more than 100 acres of retail development planned across the highway has made the risk worth it.

"We took a risk that we were kind of on the outskirts of the development, and we were a little nervous about moving out here, but we're glad to see shortly after we got here that more development started, especially in residential," said Sal Giovingo, Century 21 owner.

It's that increase in residential development in Lee County and across south Georgia that's prompted a surge in commercial growth. The Oakland Plantation project will include two phases, the first 400,000 square feet of individual free standing retail space, restaurants, or a grocery store. The second phase of 500,000 square feet will be an open-air mall.

"Typically it's an open-air environment, lots of personal space, very walkable, you typically park in front of the store that you want to go into," said Martie Jones, Oakland Plantation Operations and Marketing Manager.

The retail is considered to be high end.

"It's the same type of component where you'll have a synergy between two different types of markets, so where you'll have a J. Jill's or William-Sonoma's you will have those kinds of environments or those types of retailers in that environment," said Jones.

Retailers look for a certain number of households before they commit to a market and who will decide to be a part of this new development will rely a lot on the number of homes in the region. Real estate agents say the promise of development alone could bring new homeowners.

"If you have more opportunities for them and things to do, homeowners will be interested," said Giovingo.

It could be 18 months to two years before any type of groundbreaking is held on this development. So far, all the North Carolina developer has done is purchase the property, they will need to secure retailers for the development and begin working with Lee County to prepare the property for construction.

You will see some activity out here this summer, both Security Bank and First State Bank will begin construction on new branches in this area of 82.

The retail development is part of Oakland Plantation's 15 year master plan which also includes more residential development. Sales on their second residential subdivision Quail Chase will begin in May.

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