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Supermarket, stadium to break ground early 2019
Officials: ‘regional grocery’ letter in hand, so TAD lives
Darin Van Tassell Web
South Georgia Tormenta FC President Darin Van Tassell

Statesboro city officials have received a letter from a regional supermarket chain intending to build a store near the corner of a widened Old Register Road and a proposed new street called Tormenta Way north of the planned Tormenta FC soccer stadium.

This letter was required to keep the Old Register Tax Allocation District intact past Dec. 31 under the terms of an agreement involving the city, the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners and the Bulloch County Board of Education. City Attorney Cain Smith would neither confirm nor deny that Publix is the chain in question, but he said the city is satisfied with the letter.

“A regional grocery chain has provided the city an approval letter that they will place a store at the site, and a copy of the approval letter has been forwarded to the school board and county attorneys and to our elected officials,” Smith said Wednesday.

Other local sources said the store will be 10,000 square feet larger than the 41,000-square-foot “grocery store,” projected in the original Old Register TAD proposal. The median size of an American supermarket as of 2016 was 41,300 square feet, according to information on the Food Marketing Institute’s website, www.fmi.org, which has been tracking a trend to smaller food stores.

With the recent revelation that ALDI is planning a 19,000-square-foot store for the Statesboro Crossing shopping center off Brannen Street, Statesboro appears likely to get both a new smaller-type supermarket and a more than median-size one in the near future. The “regional grocery chain” is expected to make an announcement of the larger store in January, according to multiple local sources.

“We are positive that it will be before the end of January,” Smith said.

But out of respect to the company, local officials are “going to let them have the glory of the announcement that everybody in Statesboro is looking forward to,” he said.

 

Part of the TAD

The soccer stadium, the grocery store, two hotels, a movie theater, restaurants and a bank were projected parts of an estimated $160.5 million in private investment in the Old Register Road TAD proposal.

In support of it, the city, county and school system have committed $4.75 million for public infrastructure, mostly roads, from the increased property tax revenue expected from growth in the district after Dec. 31. This is the purpose of the TAD, which lets tax revenue from property and appraisals that already existed in the district continue to go the regular budgets of the city, county and schools.

The agreements also provide that if TAD revenues fell short, the same area could be assessed as a “special service district” to repay the public bonds. This would amount to a property tax increase exclusively on the owners of the new development.

The TAD proposal began with planning by South Georgia Tormenta FC President Darin Van Tassell and the team’s other owners and investors to surround the new stadium with other commercial and residential development.

 

Condition met

A TAD does not directly affect sales taxes, but increased retail sales from keeping grocery shoppers in the county and attracting visitors would increase sales tax revenue.

So after discussions about optimizing the return in public revenues, school system, county and city officials required in their agreement that the grocery company issue “an approval letter indicating its intention to locate such grocery store within the Old Register TAD.”

A further passage stated that if that didn’t happen, the inclusion of county and school system property taxes would “automatically terminate” leaving the city “obligated to dissolve … the Old Register TAD as of December 31, 2018.”

County Attorney Jeff Akins confirmed Wednesday that the county received a copy of the letter forwarded by the city.

“I’m satisfied that the terms of the agreement were met, so I think it’s going forward,” Akins said.

 

2019 brings growth

Interviewed Tuesday, Van Tassell said he expects the stadium and supermarket projects to proceed at roughly the same time.

“I think both of those two projects will move pretty simultaneously,” he said. “As I’ve said before, we’ve got to get the stadium up and going for the 2020 season, and we’re finishing up the design phase so that we can get to the groundbreaking phase.”

Launched in 2015, Tormenta FC has so far competed in a United Soccer League pre-professional, division but will field a professional team in the rebranded USL League One with the 2019 season beginning in March. The club will also continue to field a pre-professional team, now in USL League Two.

Through the 2019 season, Tormenta will use Georgia Southern University’s soccer facility as in previous seasons, but the franchise’s owners promised to build a stadium for future seasons.

 

Stadium and roads

The stadium complex will occupy the former Hackers Golf Park space north of The Clubhouse family fun center, which Van Tassell and his wife own. In addition to the stadium, the complex will include a restaurant, a craft brewery, all of the offices of Tormenta FC and team stores, he said.

Previously described as having 5,000 seats, the stadium will seat 5,300 people for soccer games but up to 14,000 for concerts and similar events, Van Tassell said this week.

The timing for both the stadium and the grocery store has depended on design work for the new road and road improvements, he said.

With advance funding from bonds to be repaid with TAD revenue, Old Register Road will be widened to five lanes between The Clubhouse and the Veterans Memorial Parkway intersection. Traffic signals are planned for the intersection.

Also with TAD-backed bond funding, two-lane Tormenta Way, roughly paralleling Veterans Memorial Parkway, will be built to connect Old Register Road and an extension of Akins Boulevard. Not in the city TAD, the Akins extension is planned by Georgia Southern University to connect with its envisioned South Campus.

The planned supermarket and envisioned future stores near it would be between the parkway and the new road. Visible from the parkway, the supermarket site is a field east of the Old Register intersection.

 

‘Statesboro growing’

“Clearly as we’re getting ready for our stadium we’re looking forward to that coming online simultaneously, and when you throw in the announcement of the creek project, it’s a fun time to talk about Statesboro growing,” Van Tassell said.

Last week the Blue Mile Foundation and state and local officials unveiled the Creek on the Blue Mile plan for a lake and park feature straddling the U.S. Highway 301 corridor in midtown Statesboro. The Statesboro Herald will publish an update this weekend on the widening of Georgia Highway 67 to Interstate 16, with clearing underway and completion slated for fall 2020.

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.

 

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