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Morgan BOE office land hot property
Developer interested in 16 acres; should board hold out for more?

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com · 340-2432

The developer of the city’s newest retail development is targeting the neighboring Morgan County Board of Education property for a possible Phase 2.

GBT Realty Corp. of Brentwood, Tenn., the developer of The Crossings, asked Superintendent Bob Balch for permission to talk to the school board about the availability of the roughly 16 acres. The property is between the city’s newest retail development and Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

Balch said he plans to present the request to the board at Thursday’s monthly work session, but it would be the May meeting before the board could talk to the developer.

“They want to show the board a layout and pitch them on the benefits of selling the property,” Balch said.

An answering machine said GBT was closed for Good Friday, so company officials were not available for comment.

The developer must back its pitch for the Morgan BOE property with cash — lots of it.

School officials are not in the mood or position to sell cheaply.

“I’ve never been unhappy with where we are,” school board member Carolyn Wallace said. “But we are willing to listen to their proposal.”

School officials agreed they must get enough money in a sale to relocate the central office, alternative school, media center, office annex with its bus maintenance and cabinet shops, and several storage buildings. They even talked of the possibility of having money left to add to funds needed for a new Priceville High School.

No hurry to sell?

School board member Mike Tarpley is a real estate agent. He knows that timing is everything in real estate, but he is in no hurry to sell the property. With the Base Realignment and Closure Commission plan and other industries spurring growth, he feels the board should be patient.

“The value of that property is only going to go up,” Tarpley said.

Tarpley’s point is made in comparing his estimate with the asking price of a neighboring property. He said a recent appraisal said the school property is worth between $750,000 and $850,000 an acre.

Brian Fortenberry, real estate agent with Realty North, said the asking price for the neighboring 2.9-acre Ramada Limited property is $5 million, or about $1.7 million an acre. Fortenberry and his partner, Susan Bolan, recently put the Alabama 67 property on the market.

Tarpley and Balch said the board has to consider that it would have to buy land for relocation. They said building costs are high because of the cost of construction materials.

John Seymour, president and chief executive officer of Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, said developments that include retail outlets like Target and Old Navy attract attention from people in the retail industry.

Seymour said he knows of at least two more properties at Alabama 67 and U.S. 31 that are for sale.

“They (retailers) know the kind of research Target and Old Navy do, and a lot of people will want to follow them,” Seymour said.

No hurry to buy?

Seymour said he doesn’t think The Crossings developer is in any hurry because his main focus is getting Target and Old Navy open by October. He said the developer is still trying to determine which restaurants will locate on the site.

Once The Crossings opens and provides more demographics and traffic counts to show potential retailers, Seymour said the developer will begin to focus more on neighboring areas. He said the developer is already looking at the school property because he doesn’t want to be landlocked and unable to move to Phase 2.

“I think it will be at least a year before he wants to move (on surrounding properties),” Seymour said.

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