A development for retail shopping, Class A business space and a hotel has been in the works for two years. First it was on. Then it was off.
Now, the development of Covington Town Center is back on.
Following an executive session at the end of Monday night’s Covington City Council meeting, Mayor Ronnie Johnston took the unanimous vote needed for the city to enter into an agreement with the Foxfield Company, of South Carolina, for the sale of 99.74 acres of land located along Alcovy and City Pond roads.
Called Project Phoenix because it grew out of the ashes of the earlier Project Kitchen Sink, the resurrected mix use development includes a proposed 900-seat movie theater, 264,000-square-feet in office space, 760,000-square-feet in retail space, over 18,000-square-feet in restaurants, an 840-room hotel plus green space and preserves.
Owned by Harry E. Kitchens Jr., Foxfield Company will pay the city $10 for the property and will then invest an estimated $10.8 million in infrastructure, including planning, clearing, grading and building roads and parkways. Once those throughways are completed, Foxfield will deed the roads and parkways back to the city.
Foxfield seeks to buy an additional 86-acre parcel for future development as demand expanded. Covington Town Center will be bordered by State Route 142/John R. Williams Parkway on the northeast, Alcovy Road on the east, City Pond Road on the south and west, and south of Nisshimbo Road near the Covington Municipal Airport.
Thomas and Hutton, Inc., a Savannah-based engineering firm, was hired by Foxfield and approved by the city to create the proposed plans. The city gave Foxfield the rights to pursue all approvals, rezoning applications, licenses, title insurance, permits and other related items. The city will issue a letter of intent with a commitment from the Georgia Department of Transportation to complete improvements such as road curb cuts, the widening of Alcovy Road, addition of turn lanes and traffic lights, right-of-way acquisition and relocation of utilities when needed.
In return, Foxfield will pay for the developmental plans, clearing and grading of the property, infrastructure construction, buildings and landscaping, installation of sewer and storm lines and other related improvements.
Due diligence must be met by Oct. 17. The sale will close 210 days later.
First signs of development
The project first came to light when Johnston published a letter in The News, in November, making the public aware of Foxfield’s intention to develop retail and office space, a movie theater, hotel and restaurants. [See story, “Development seeks 99 acres of city land” at http://www.covnews.com/archives/200147/]
The development by Foxfield was expected to create 1,500 jobs and $200,000,000 million worth of investment, according to the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce in 2015.
Foxfield’s projects have an aggregate value in excess of $375 million, according to its resume. Foxfield is currently involved with the development of Compass Industrial Park in Savannah, which consists of 700 acres of industrial/manufacturing land that is approved for 3.25 million square feet of industrial space and 399 multifamily units.
In November, the city had agreed to sell the 99.7 acres for $1.52 million, which would go towards paying the $2.9 million in infrastructure improvements required by the developer. Another $1.4 million would have been used to pay for roads and utility infrastructure.
Earlier estimates by the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors indicated local governments would get over $1.3 million in property and sales tax revenues, while the Newton County School System would receive $1.8 million. [See “Letter to the Editor,” from the chamber board at http://www.covnews.com/archives/200076/.]
However, in January, the city of Covington received a letter from Foxfield, withdrawing its proposal. According to Mayor Ronnie Johnston, the city and developer “just could not come to final terms as far as the performance criteria and building the roads. ... It ended up being a pretty complicated thing because the city was involved, the county was involved. [See story, “Alcovy Road commercial development no more.” at http://www.covnews.com/archives/200659/.]
Ralph Staffins, president of the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce said they had worked on the project for more than a year before Foxfield pulled out.
The site sits off of Alcovy Road and backs up to the Covington Municipal Airport.