Developer heads to Las Vegas convention in early stages of negotiations for clients at 54th and Broadway

QUINCY — Jim Otis doesn’t yet have a deal in place, and he won’t reveal the names of any restaurants or businesses he could potentially bring to Quincy.

But when he heads to Las Vegas for the three-day International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) conference beginning Sunday, he’ll search for retailers ready to commit to this market.

“Every developer and every broker who’s particularly retail-oriented tends to go to this conference,” Otis said. “None of these retailers are in the Quincy market, so they’ve got to come in, make their sales projections and then determine if this is a kind of rent they’re comfortable with.

“I just hope it matches with the type of number I’m trying to get for rent. They don’t tell me what their number is, and I don’t tell them my costs. It’s a dance.”

Mayor Mike Troup said Monday he’s been speaking with Otis, president of the Otis Company in Omaha, Neb., for the past three months about the 7.93-acre property on the northeast corner of 54th and Broadway, just south of Sam’s Club. Troup said Otis, who made a presentation to the Finance Committee on Monday, has an option to buy the property.

“That was the starting point to see if we can’t get that incentive rebate money to help with the economics of putting this deal together,” Otis said. “We’re in the very beginning stages of our negotiations with tenants. The site plan represents some of the tenants we’re already working with, but they’re far from a done deal. We can’t reveal names. There’s just so much we can’t talk about now. But I’ve been through this before.”

Adams County tax records show the Edgar W. Campbell Trust of Greenville owns the property.

Otis said he first learned of the property’s availability last year at — of all places — the ICSC conference in Las Vegas. 

“I was talking to somebody and he said, ‘You know, in Quincy, there’s been this site that was on the market for years, but it had this horrible typography issue that needed to be resolved,” Otis said. “But recently, the owner allowed for some fill to be brought in. You ought to take a look at it, because it’s really well placed in that Quincy market.”

Otis visited Quincy last summer and met with Kyle Moore, president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation.

“Kyle gave me a nice tour of Quincy,” he said. “He’s all gung ho on Quincy, and he just showed me all over the place. I looked at this piece of property, and at that time, it was under contract. I thought well, shoot. I’ve probably missed an opportunity. Then it came back on the market, and I took a shot. So here we are.”

Troup says Otis is requesting a $1 million tax rebate incentive on the sales tax collected. Troup believes the deal could end up being similar to how the city structured the GMX deal on the former Kmart property on the northeast corner of 36thand Broadway, now home to Target.

“What a great deal,” Otis said. “What would you rather have? A Target or a vacant Kmart? It cost the city nothing. It’s just sharing the sales tax. It really does help the quality of life in Quincy.”

Otis says the justification for the incentive is that although the fill was placed to fill a large hole on the site, he says it wasn’t placed correctly and must be removed.

“It’s filled with debris that needs to be removed,” he said. “It’s placed on top of soil. It’s got a moisture problem that needs to be corrected. All sorts of things still need to be worked out regarding that, because it drives the cost up.

“A million dollars lowers my land costs by about $3.40 a square foot. Of the seven and a half acres-ish, a portion is for stormwater. Then we’ve got five lots totaling 6.75 acres and you divide that the square footage of that many acres into a million dollars, and it’s $3.40. Our price is still high for the Quincy market, but you know what? I like the location.”

The next step is for the Finance Committee to approve the tax rebate document and send it to the Quincy City Council. Meanwhile, Otis wants to get signed leases on all five lots.

“Once that’s accomplished, we close,” he said. “The importance of the incentive is, you know, I’m already kind of relying on it, I suppose. It would be hard not to. I think it makes a lot of sense. The mayor’s in favor of it. I suppose in the end that it could get voted down, but I guess we’re kind of relying on it.”

Otis said most of the lots at 54th and Broadway will be filled by restaurants, who he said “can afford to pay the highest rent” on high-priced ground. As the cost to remove the fill increased, he said the property became “too pricey” for many retail shops.

“We’re being kind of forced to deal with a certain segment,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with it. I mean, who doesn’t like a nice restaurant, especially if it’s new to the market? The spectrum has narrowed to a segment of the retail market that can pay the highest rent. That tends to be fast-food quick-service restaurants.”

If all goes well, Otis doesn’t believe any construction will begin for a year.

He showed the Finance Committee photos of a recently completed project by his company in an abandoned Kmart building in Dalton, Ga.

Forty percent of the building was razed to make room for a Food City grocery store, and then Ulta Beauty, Ross Dress for Less and PetSmart stores were added as well as a local sports outfitters store. Buildings for an AT&T store, a Bath and Body Works store, a jeweler, a Japanese restaurant and a Crumbl Cookies store were built. A former Shoney’s restaurant was converted into a Starbucks.

“It was an example of what we can do,” Otis said.

Before that happens, many hurdles must be cleared.

“This is not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination,” Otis said. “We’re really working the market. I think we’ll be successful, but man, there’s always a little luck involved. You’ve got to hit people at the right time. Everybody we’re talking to wants to be in Quincy, but are you ready to do the deal now? Is the rent going to scare them off? I hope not.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The name of one of the stores in the development in Dalton, Ga., was incorrect in a previous version of this story.

Developer heads to Las Vegas convention in early stages of negotiations for clients at 54th and Broadway