Despite scrutiny from the public, the Franklin Board of Aldermen have finally approved a location for the site of the town’s new ABC store.
For the past 17 years, the town’s ABC store has been leasing a 6,500 square foot space from Macon Plaza and has only had one rate increase resulting in approximately $6,069.76 per month or $72,828 a year for rent.
In December, Todd Mason, ABC store manager, informed the Town Aldermen that Centro Properties Group (the firm responsible for managing the plaza) proposed raising the monthly rent by 10 percent or to more than $80,000 a year, when the store’s lease is up next November.
In addition to proposing a 10 percent increase, Centro Properties Group also informed the town that they would only agree to sign a three year lease renewal and at the end of that lease, additional rent increases could be expected.
After careful consideration the ABC committee, which is comprised of Aldermen Farrell Jamison and Verlin Curtis, Town Manager Sam Greenwood, and ABC board member Pat Pattillo and Todd Mason, requested the board approve moving the ABC store to the same shopping plaza as the new Walmart that is currently under construction.
The board approved to enter into a letter of intent with the Tennessee-based company, Meyers Franklin Associates, LP in order to outline a preliminary offer to purchase the property for the amount of $1.25 million.
According to Greenwood, in the long term, the town will end up saving money by owning the building rather than leasing. If you consider Franklin would be spending a little more than $80,000 to continue leasing the current property, if additional rate increases don’t occur, than in about 15 years the town would have spent the around $1.25 million in rent, explained Greenwood. By purchasing the building and the property, eventually the town will have complete ownership of the store and the revenues would be greater and mostly all profit.
Alderman Bob Scott informed fellow board members that he was not keen on the idea to be contracting the construction of the building to a Tennessee company, when so many local businesses are currently struggling. He voted against the proposed site and explained that with so many vacant buildings within the town, he couldn't justify voting to construct a new one.
According to Greenwood, that $1.25 million will cover the cost of the building, which will be constructed to house the 6,400-square-foot space, as well as the land directly beneath the building.
In addition to the $1.25 million for purchasing the property and building, the town will be responsible for any attorney’s fees in connection with this transaction and half of any escrow fees charged by the escrow agent.
The new store will be very similar to a site in Weaverville, which Pattillo and Jamison visited when comparing ABC stores in Western North Carolina. The Weaverville site is also in the parking lot of the town’s Walmart.
In December of last year, ABC store manager Todd Mason informed the board of Aldermen that because of the economic downturn, Centro Properties Group proposed raising the monthly rent by 10 percent – an increase that would mean a monthly cost of approximately $6,676.76. Mason worked with the town’s ABC Board in attempt to negotiate with the property owners on the rate increase, but “simply were just not dealt with,” explained Greenwood.
In order to avoid paying such a significant increase, The Board of Aldermen developed the ABC committee to begin exploring other options.
In January, Aldermen agreed that it would seem more financially beneficial to Franklin for the ABC store to be owned by the town rather than leased from a third party individual.
Mayor Collins noted in January that he believed it would be more beneficial for the town to own the store rather than just lease it in order to receive a greater portion of the profits. “I am confident that it would be more cost efficient for the Town to own the building and the property and I think now is a good time to make that transition,” said Collins. “I just think we owe it to taxpayers to have more than one site to look at. It will help keep things competitive and give us choices.”
The ABC committee originally identified 17 sites throughout the town that could be potentially identified to relocate the store, but the location near the new Walmart Superstore was considered an “ideal” area to build a new liquor store.
Aldermen previously expressed concern about the accessibility of placing the store in the same shopping plaza as Walmart. The site is anticipated to be extremely busy once completed, and board members were concerned that the town may see a loss in revenue because customers may not want to fight getting in and out of traffic congestion caused by the neighboring retail store.
With the current location’s lease ending in November, it was pertinent that the committee move quickly to identify a location. Now that negotiations have began, Greenwood anticipates the new site will be ready to be opened by the end of September or early October. He also noted that the new Walmart is expected to open around the same time, but if it does not, it will not delay relocation of the ABC store.
Aldermen choose new Walmart Plaza to relocate