Archive for Thursday, September 13, 2007

Grocery developers beset by obstacles

September 13, 2007

It's coming, but the question is -- when?

Almost a year has passed since Ed McIntosh and John Bell of Benchmark Management announced to the public they would be opening a grocery store in Basehor with the help of Affinity Foods Midwest. According to initial predictions, the 50,000-square-foot facility named Wolf Creek Marketplace was supposed to open to the public by now, but the dirt remains untouched at the proposed site on the north side of U.S. Highway 24-40 just east of 155th Street.

McIntosh said a number of factors have caused the hold up, including refrigeration and access concerns.

"We've had a lot of issues to resolve that took a lot longer than we had anticipated," he said. "There's a lot more involved than I thought."

Choosing the elements in the store's refrigeration system turned into a five-month ordeal for the partners as they researched the different manufacturers, types, styles, sizes and where to locate the compressors. While McIntosh said he thought 30 days would be sufficient for those decisions, it took five times as long.

"It's probably the heartbeat of the store and the most important mechanical feature," he said about the refrigeration system. "And to make sure we got it right, we took our time in making our decisions, but it just took a lot longer than we thought it would."

With the refrigeration system issue resolved, McIntosh said they are now waiting on the biggest and what they hope will be the last concern to tackle before beginning construction -- access to the store from the highway.

The 24-40 Corridor Study, which began in mid 2006, was created to develop a 30-year plan for land use along a two-mile wide strip of the highway running west from Kansas Highway 7 to County Road 1. Desired locations of various types of highway access points, including full access points with traffic lights and right-in, right-out access points were included in the plan.

McIntosh said it is important for the store's success for the Wolf Creek Junction development to have a right-in, right-out access point, but the store owners will have to wait until the study is finalized to see if such access will be granted.

He said he not only wants the store to be easily accessible for Basehor residents, but to those that happen to drive by as well.

"We are counting on more than just our market area to support the store," he said. "The people that would be traveling by, it has to be convenient to them to attract them. That right in, right out allows them to turn right off the highway and go to the grocery store. That has a huge impact on our project."

Basehor City Administrator Carl Slaugh said the 24-40 Corridor Study document is currently in its final stages of review before it is sent to the state for approval. Slaugh said it could be as short as 30 days or as long as three or four months before the study is completed.

McIntosh said Wolf Creek Marketplace owners hope to start excavation by mid October, but the actual start date all depends on the 24-40 Corridor Study. The final development plan for the project is also up for approval by the City Council at its Sept. 17 meeting.

"That's our hope and intentions, but the right-in, right-out issue is the determining factor of when that actually occurs," he said.

Despite the hold ups, McIntosh said he and Bell, along with the newest partner in the project, Kevin Barclay, who will also serve as part owner and the operations manager for the store, are still up for the challenge. They are still as excited and optimistic about the project as they were when they first announced their plans to the public, he said.

"The delays have not at all dampened my spirits," McIntosh said. "We're still really super excited about getting the store open. We still have complete faith that this is the answer for our development. I'm just a little more anxious than I was awhile back, and I was anxious then."

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