Good things are happening in the effort to develop a prime stretch of land on Fort Crook Road but the details cannot yet be released, Mayor Rita Sanders said Friday.
Sanders said talks are ongoing between the city and Omaha-based Lockwood Development, the company chosen to develop a 33-acre site at Fort Crook and Cornhusker roads formerly occupied by the Coreslab concrete block company.
“I’ve heard good things about who might be going in there, but it’s their announcement to make so I dare not say who they’re talking to, but I know they’re trying to finalize all of that,” Sanders said. “It’s positive.”
Bellevue Planning Director Chris Shewchuk said a meeting took place recently between himself and Deputy City Attorney Tim Buckley, along with representatives of Lockwood.
Shewchuk said the talks focused on doing what is necessary to secure Tax Increment Financing, a tax benefit commonly awarded to developers who build in blighted areas.
Lockwood holds a purchase agreement with the city that gives the company until July 31 to decide whether it wishes to buy a 33-acre city-owned site at the northwest corner of Fort Crook and Cornhusker roads. The sale price is $2.65 million.
The agreement was inked last October and gave Chip James, owner of Lockwood Development, nine months to decide whether he could make something happen at the site.
Lockwood has developed several successful strip-mall type developments throughout the greater Omaha area, and Sanders has said she is condident the company will bring an attractive development to Bellevue.
Applying for TIF monies was expected since Lockwood Development made receipt of that tax incentive a key requirement of moving ahead with the sale.
TIF allows developers to redirect property tax payments that would have been due on improvements to land or to existing buildings. The additional property tax dollars generated by the improvements, instead of being paid to government entities, are used instead to retire infrastructure costs associated with making the improvements.
The first step in the process is submitting a development plan, something that Sanders said is pending.
“There’s a discussion about it, so that’s great,” she said. “Once that comes forward we can vote on it.”
Before the council can grant TIF it must declare the target area as blighted, a designation that often stirs controversy among owners of neighboring properties who fear the description will reduce their property values.
The agreement with the city poses little risk for Lockwood.
The company was required to place $10,000 into an interest-bearing account as an earnest deposit but will get that amount back — together with interest earned — if it decides not to buy the land.
The city purchased the property for $1.5 million in 2006.
Another $1 million in state funds was invested in the property’s cleanup after being vacated by Coreslab, a concrete block company.