By a 6-0 vote Tuesday, the Mobile City Council approved a $9.25 million sales tax incentive for the redevelopment of Westwood Plaza shopping center at the corner of Airport Boulevard and Schillinger Road.
Under the 15-year agreement, Burton Property Investments’ $25 million investment in the old shopping center will be rebated any sales tax revenue exceeding a 40 percent increase from what the shopping center reaped in 2013, Council Attorney Jim Rossler said. The city will also pay $250,000 for a traffic light.
Developer Phillip Burton said the city received $795,000 in 2013 sales tax revenue from the center, meaning the city would have to see revenues of about $1.1 million in the future, before Burton receives any of the rebate promised by the incentive.
Once Burton has made $4.7 million in rebates to recoup the initial capital expenses on the project, the deal is capped to a maximum of $450,000 a year in rebates, Burton said. Rossler added that the city has capped the entire incentives package at $9.25 million.
An additional requirement stipulates that 80 percent of the center’s tenants must be businesses that are new to Mobile, or the second location of a business already in Mobile, Rossler said, a requirement that will remain in effect for the length of the agreement.
C.J. Small, who abstained from the vote, said he feared the deal would create a precedent where other pre-existing shopping centers ask for similar incentives.
City Attorney Ricardo Woods told the council during a pre-council conference that if other developers, making similar investments, wanted this same incentive deal, “we hope the city council would say yes every time.”
Using Kirkland’s – which currently has a location in Bel Air Mall – as an example in the pre-council conference, Small expressed concern over business owners opening a second location at the shopping center and then closing the first location and hurting their original landlords.
Woods told the council the 80 percent guarantee for new stores would keep retail outlets from cannibalizing each other.
“That’s why the 80 percent is in there,” Woods said. “It’s for the security of the investment and so that stores aren’t cannibalized. It’s profitable for the investor, but also a win for the city.”
Councilors Levon Manzie and Bess Rich praised the deal, saying it was a win-win for the city.
The project is expected to be completed by summer 2015, Burton said. The anchor store of the center will be outdoors retailer Gander Mountain. In addition, Burton announced two restaurants coming to the center, a pizza chain called Uncle Maddio’s and Hurricane Wings.
Zoning for new Greene and Phillips building
The council also approved, by a 5-2 vote, a zoning change from residential to business to allow for the construction of a new, three-story building at the northwest corner of Kossow and North Florida streets, despite complaints from two nearby residents.
The proposed building would be the home of Greene and Phillips law firm.
Jennifer Hopkins, of Alexander Street, presented the council with a petition signed by neighbors who were against having a three-story building in their neighborhood.
“Anyone who signed the petition hasn’t heard anything from the law firm,” Hopkins said. “If they build it, there will be more traffic in the neighborhood.”
City planning staff had originally recommended a denial of the application, planner Richard Olsen said, before the Planning Commission voted to recommend approval.
Council denies cabbie appeal
The council did deny an appeal from a cab company owner to have his license renewed, reacting to a recommendation by the Mobile Police Department.
After a female passenger complained to police that she had been mistreated, it was discovered the chauffeur license of Jean-Jacques Boivineau, owner and operator of Allied Taxi Company had expired, officer John Young told councilors.
Young said Boivineau’s license had been expired for two years. Boivineau argued that he needed the job and that in 15 years as a cabbie, this was his only complaint.
Laura Hicks, who made the complaint, told councilors that during a ride from Mobile Regional Airport in July, Boivineau’s cab couldn’t process credit cards. She said he asked her to write down her card information, but she refused. He then threatened to kick her out of the cab, before eventually taking her back to the airport.
Boivineau took responsibility for what happened.