MOODY – More than 100 people gathered in the large community room at City Hall as the council held a public hearing pertaining to the revitalization and development agreement that the council and St. Clair County Commission later approved.
The development agreement, in essence, will close the Food Giant in the Village at Moody shopping center and provide for the construction of a new store and grocery tenant.
Most people at last Thursday night's called meeting, many of whom were Food Giant store employees, voiced opposition to closing the Food Giant, and some residents said there was plenty of room for two stores in Moody.
Many of those who attended last week’s public hearing said they believed that a Publix store would move into the new development.
Officials with Barber Companies Inc., which through its subsidiary Birmingham Realty Company owns the property, would not identify the grocery store that would eventually move into the Village at Moody.
County and city officials would not confirm that upscale grocery store was coming to Moody, either.
Don Erwin, vice president of corporate development for Barber Companies, Inc., said the company could not reveal of the name of the new grocery store that his company was in negotiations with.
He said the unnamed grocery store was almost ready to sign a 20-year lease commitment.
“This grocer has a stellar reputation,” Erwin said.
He said Birmingham Realty Company will build a new 45,600-square-foot grocery store and renovate all store fronts in the Village at Moody shopping development. Plans include renovating the parking lot and installing new lighting and landscaping.
“The grocer didn’t want a renovated building, but a new building,” Erwin told the Moody City Council Thursday night.
He said the new development would generate more local jobs, sales tax revenue for the city, and increase sales for other tenants in the Village at Moody.
Don Smith, director of the St. Clair County Economic Development Council, would not confirm that a new Publix store would replace the Food Giant.
At the hearing, Smith said a survey of about 1,000 people revealed that 71 percent of the respondents wanted a Publix store in Moody. He said the survey was on the City of Moody’s website.
Smith said about 45 percent of the people who participated in the survey said they shopped at a Publix store outside the city of Moody.
Those opposed to the new development said Moody will be without a grocery store for one year while a new store is being built, and Food Giant employees will be without jobs.
“Where do we go for our groceries?” one woman asked.
Chuck Callans, leasing and development for Barber Companies Inc., said the new store will train and hire new employees from the Moody area.
He said it would stand to reason that the new grocer would prefer local people with grocery store experience.
Jay Mitchell, vice president of Mitchell Grocery Corp., which owns the Food Giant, said the store in Moody currently employees about 80 full-time and part-time workers.
Mitchell, who was at last Thursday night’s meeting, thanked residents for their support for the past nine years.
He said the Food Giant in Moody pays local employees about $1 million a year in wages and benefits, and the local store generates about $300,000 a year in tax revenue for the city.
“If we are asked to leave Moody, we won’t be contributing those dollars,” Mitchell said.
He said his company is looking at other property outside the city of Moody.
While some residents said they couldn’t afford to shop at Publix, others in the audience said they would welcome a Publix grocery store to Moody.
One woman said she travels outside the city to shop at a Publix store because certain items are not available at Food Giant. One woman said she would like a new Publix store in Moody, but would also like to see Food Giant remain.
“We could support two stores,” said one woman who identified herself as Phyllis Price. “We need more variety. I think we need more choices.”
Others said Food Giant was a good corporate neighbor, supporting many community activities and charities.
Once the Moody Council approved the revitalization agreement, most people who attended the hearing left.
The St. Clair County Commission held its called meeting immediately following Moody’s council meeting. The St. Clair County Commission also approved the agreement.
“It’s a privilege for us to be involved, and we wish you success,” Commissioner Paul Manning told Barber Companies Inc. officials.
Barber Companies Inc. officials said the Village at Moody development project will cost about $4.5 million.
Combined, the city and county will provide Birmingham Realty Company with $2.5 million in assistance for the revitalization and development of the Village at Moody shopping center though sales taxes generated through the new grocery store.
According to the agreement, Moody will share 50 percent of the sales taxes generated from the new grocery store, once an annual threshold of $310,000 in sales taxes is met. The city’s assistance will not exceed $1,875,000.
The St. Clair County Commission agreed to share 50 percent of the sales tax revenue generated from the new store with Birmingham Realty Company for up to 15 years. The annual threshold of $100,000 must be met before the county provides a 50-50 split of the sales taxes to Birmingham Realty Company. The total amount of tax refund cannot exceed $625,000.
According to the agreement, during the first year the county and city will only share 25 percent of the sales tax when the above stated thresholds are reached.
The agreement will not affect tax revenues earmarked for public education.
Contact David Atchison at email@example.com.