A real estate capital investment company has purchased a 102-acre commercial tract adjacent to the North Georgia Premium Outlet Mall.
Atlanta-based Blanchard Real Estate Capital Company plans to develop an approximately 350,000-square-foot "Power Center" that will include several national retailers and restaurants, according to company principal David Wishen.
The property formerly was owned by the Sembler Company, which in 2009 planned to break ground on a one-million-square-foot shopping facility. Because of a declining economy, however, ground was never broken and the property later went into foreclosure.
"Our plan, at 350,000 square feet, is much less ambitious and far more reasonable at this time," Wishen said. "We plan to do a nice retail development that suits the needs and desires of Dawson County."
Wishen said the retailers he is targeting will not directly compete with the North Georgia Premium Outlet Mall or the nearby Walmart Supercenter or Home Depot.
"We won't be duplicating tenants or current retailers, but rather make up the gaps in retail coverage," he said.
The 102-acre property is bordered by Highway 400, Dawson Forest Road, Lumpkin Campground Road, and Carlisle Road (see map).
Dawson County Commission Chair Mike Berg said the project fits in well with the county’s long-range land-use plan.
“It’s what we had planned seven years ago, and the community has said in the latest survey that we should follow that plan,” he said. “I think this is the best indication that business is coming back to Dawson County. We may be looking at the growth spurt we thought we’d have five to seven years ago.”
Retail developments like Blanchard’s help keep the tax base low for Dawson County residents, Berg added.
“We are not expecting a (tax) millage rate increase, but we’ll have to see what the board says,” he said.
Charlie Auverannn, executive director of the Development Authority of Dawson County (DADC), said any and all new business and construction activities benefit Dawson County.
“That is the case whether it is the new Popeye’s, which broke ground last week, or a project the size of Blanchard’s,” he said.
Initial benefits come from some of the construction activities that can use local construction companies and local labor. However, not all of the construction will use local labor, because some of each project requires specialization that is not locally available, Auvermann said.
“Still, workers eat locally and buy locally, which bumps local sales tax,” he said. “Projects improve property, thus property taxes which, even though they are lower these days, will increase for a given piece of property because it will not be assessed in its improved state.
“There is momentum to what is happening here whether it is expansions in healthcare or in retail.”
Groundbreaking for the Blanchard project is expected early in 2014 and will take approximately 12 to 18 months to complete, Wishen said.
“We are going through our due diligence process and doing a property analysis, and we want to make sure we minimize traffic disruption,” he said. “We’re working with DOT (the Georgia Department of Transportation) and the county about traffic and looking at ways to make it better for everyone.”
Wishen noted the property is ideal for retail development.
“I think the timing is right, the site is right, and we hope to make it work and make everyone happy,” Wishen said.
The next steps for Blanchard include working with the county and planning and zoning to ensure that what it plans lines up with the county’s needs.
In addition to retail, plans for the property could include a convention center and hotel.
“Right now, we have six or eight site plans floating around and we have to look at what makes the most sense and is the best fit for the county,” Wishen said. “A portion of the property would need to be rezoned if we end up doing hospitality, a convention center, or apartments. It may end up being a nice mixed-use development.
“We don’t need a Neiman Marcus. ... We want to make sure we put tenants in there who are going to serve residents in the best manner. We are excited and looking forward to this, and we hope everyone likes what we do.”
Wishen said the Dawson County development, at 350,000 square feet, will be the largest, multi-tenant project in Blanchard’s history.
Other projects in the company’s portfolio include Walmart Supercenters in Perry, Ga. and York, S.C. Both were approximately 152,000 square-feet.
According to the company’s website, Blanchard Real Estate Capital was formed in January 2011 by Parker Blanchard. The company’s sole mission is to acquire, develop, and redevelop retail investment real estate in the southeastern United States. Within the past 180 days, the company has been involved in the acquisition of $85 million of retail property and is currently committed to an additional $115 million of retail acquisitions, development, and redevelopment projects.
Principals Parker Blanchard, Matt Willson and David Wishen have more than 25 years’ experience in retail real estate development and have 200 retail projects. All three are graduates of the University of Georgia.
Watch your Dawson News & Advertiser for news on tenants as they become available. www.dawsonadvertiser.com