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Family Dollar on hold

Staff writer

A decision by Family Dollar to open a store in Marion has been put on hold at least until September as the corporation studies how this and other proposed new stores fit into their expansion plans.

Brad Saville is president of Landmark Commercial Real Estate in Wichita, the firm that located the site for the Marion store and developed the business plan for construction and operation of the proposed Family Dollar store.

“The deal has been put on hold until the next fiscal year,” Saville said, explaining Family Dollar’s new fiscal year begins in September. “They’re going to analyze the sales performance of other Family Dollar stores in other small markets to make sure their sales projections are accurate.”

Family Dollar identifies potential markets for stores and then turns to local developers like Saville who research, plan, construct, and own the buildings. Family Dollar then leases the store from the developer, typically for a guaranteed term of 10 years.

“We did a lot of work over the last six months to submit the site for consideration. “We focused on the specific site. We analyzed the city, the traffic patterns, and the shopping patterns,” Saville said.

“When I started the work, I would have expected it to be under construction right now,” Saville said.

This isn’t the first time Saville has encountered delays with a proposed project for a large retailer.

“It’s very common to work on something for several months and they’ll do the deal, table the deal, or kill the deal,” Saville said. “Some of the reasons might not be related to the town. There’s all kinds of things going with stockholders and other expectations. Some of the things are just beyond our control.”

Family Dollar communications director Josh Braverman said the timeline for store development can vary widely.

“I’ve seen some stores go up in four months, and I’ve seen some that have taken 18 to 24 months,” Braverman said.

Family Dollar is on target to open 500 new stores this fiscal year, and Braverman said that while a specific target hasn’t been set for next year, the company will continue aggressive expansion.

Saville remains optimistic the proposed Marion store will factor into those plans.

“They’re going to keep their eye on it,” Saville said.

“I’ve spent a lot of time up there, I’ve built some relationships, and it means something to me to get this done.” help you and they won’t pay for it. We’re going to be out about $300,000 just so FEMA can say we have a levee.”

“In other words, you have to keep it up once it’s done, rather than letting it go downhill,” Mayor Mary Olsen said.

“There are no downhill maintenance issues here. It has nothing to do with a tree or blades of grass,” Kjellin responded. “This is all engineering costs for trucks to come in here and drill holes to tell if it’s sand or clay or silt — it’s an expensive expenditure, but we have to do it.”

Without levee accreditation, the areas of town protected by the levee would be re-designated as flood plain, requiring residents and businesses to purchase flood insurance. Kjellin said the city has a window of opportunity to act before FEMA drafts its final regulations.

“They’re not changing the flood maps until they determine what ‘not having a levee’ means. As long as our flood maps don’t change, we’re legitimate,” Kjellin said.

“We’ve got to spend this in 2013 on the weird chance that if we don’t get it done FEMA might get their guidelines figured out, put us on the map based on their degraded grading system, and how long until we get back off that?” Kjellin said.

“It definitely means something to me as a lender,” council member Todd Heitschmidt said.

Wilson & Company, an Overland Park engineering firm, has already done the planning and assessment required for the first phase of the project.

It’s the second phase that is the most involved and costly, Kjellin said. Even though the levee was constructed and is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA wants hard evidence they built it according to construction specifications.

“FEMA wants to see core samples to prove it was built like that,” Kjellin said. It will take up to 24 samples 45 feet deep to comply with the requirements.

An operating plan must be developed addressing scenarios for opening and closing the north and south levee gates, as well as when to sandbag low-gap crossings on Commercial Street to the south and the railroad grade on the north.

“We actually have a pile of sand and 10,000 sand bags that we have to keep on stock at all times,” Kjellin said.

Flood control is a regular line item in the city’s general fund budget, but Kjellin said he and the council will wait until they receive the 2013 revenue projection from the Marion County before determining the specific mechanisms for funding the certification project.

Last modified June 21, 2012

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