Retail center planned at McClellan warehouses

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McClellan Development Authority board members on Wednesday agreed to sell property for a retail development in historic warehouses at the former fort.

Robin Scott, director of the MDA, said the developer, REK Partners I, plans to turn the vacant buildings into a mix of “restaurants, open-air cafes, boutique shops and arts-and-crafts shops” where patrons can walk among the many stores and enjoy outside dining.
Attempts to reach REK Partners I on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

MDA board members at the Wednesday meeting agreed to sell the 17-building, 33-acre property located near the roundabout in McClellan for $600,000.

The contract approved by the board states that the purchaser is to pay $200,000 at closing, with the remaining $400,000 financed by the MDA at 5 percent interest for two years.

Scott said the developer plans to take advantage of tax credits made possible because the properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Those buildings were constructed between 1929 and 1974 in the colonial revival architectural style, according to National Register records.

Pete Conroy, director of Jacksonville State University’s Environmental Policy and Information Center and former member of the board which oversaw the development of McClellan, said by phone Wednesday that he was happy to hear of interest in developing the area.

Conroy said he hopes the developers retain historic features which make the buildings special. Among them are the former horse stables which housed officers’ polo ponies, Conroy said. The stalls are floored with massive center-cut longleaf pine blocks to withstand the weight of those animals.
“It is a very, very special area with incredibly important historical context,” Conroy said.