As the year draws to a close and we take time to enjoy the holidays with friends and family, I’d just like to say I’m thankful that you allow me to serve as your Commissioner. It is because of you and your love for this community that we are able to accomplish so much.
Like me, many of you probably take this time to reflect on the previous 12 months. We ask, “Did we accomplish our goals? What unexpected obstacles did we face? Did we celebrate any milestones?” We each have our own experiences for 2015 and I know that my Commission office has worked harder than ever. There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t work on the mall and try to knock down the next hurdle and believe me, you have no idea how many hurdles there have been. So, to be honest with you, I stop trying to give updates to you, because just when I think we got it figured out a new challenge pops ups.
I know until you see it being built…it really doesn’t matter what I say. There isn’t anyone more frustrated with how long this has taken than the developers and me. Neither of us ever dreamed it was going to be this difficult and it would take the time is has.
I felt like I needed to share with you everything I know and give you the facts about where we are with Titus Landing and try to correct all the rumors:
As you read this I want you to remember that this is about private developers who had no ties to this community 2 years ago and are now trying to invest 50 million dollars in Titusville. So, as some people will sit and criticize everything, I want you to know that I personally appreciate the fact they still believe in Titusville just Iike I do!
Rumor #1: The Developers Allen Goins of AG Development and Doug Reardon of Exxcel died & went bankrupt. Not true, they are both still alive and very much a part of the project (although Allen thought this was funny and said the project would like to kill him).
Rumor # 2: It is taking so long because…? The reason this project has taken so long is that everything you see that has been done at the site has been done without any bank financing to this point. Mr. Reardon of Exxcel has been paying everything (millions) out of his pocket, that wasn’t the plan when he started.
Rumor #3: Nothing’s been done…? The site was purchased for $6.3 million; there were four structures on the site that were full of asbestos last year. The old Morrison Cafeteria Building had been vacant for 15 years… it’s. …GONE! The old strip center in the back 36,000 sq. ft. had been vacant for 25 years …GONE! The old Firestone building on US1…. GONE!!! And the old 295,000 sq. foot vacant mall… GONE! So, four UGLY buildings that needed to come down are DOWN!
Rumor #4: The developers ran out of money? Not true they have purchased two more blighted buildings on US1 in front of the old mall and those buildings will be demolished in the next 60 days. The old Burger King building (now Dave’s Restaurant) was purchased by Exxcel this month and is coming down. The old building north of BBT bank will come down next. The details are almost final on the BBT bank building, also is coming down, and the developers are building BBT a new branch bank. When the developers started this project they did not plan to purchase three other additional sites, they had to do this in order to get some of the tenants to commit because certain tenants wanted more parking spaces in front of their stores. (As if one real estate transaction with a 1969 site wasn’t difficult enough, now it was 4 separate real estate transactions and 4 separate owners). At this point still no bank financing, all these purchases being paid for by the developers and investors.
Rumor #5: There are liens on property. This is true, the demo contractor per his contract with developer had agreed to get majority of his funds at bank closing. There has not been a bank closing. The demo company needs to file a lien to protect his interest. The demo guy and developer are working out those details. But you might have noticed he is back on site working.
Rumor #6: This is the biggest rumor that is being told: The County/City and North Brevard Economic Zone gave the developers $6.5 million and they developers ran off with those funds. NOT TRUE!!! The developer has not received ONE PENNY from the City, County or NBEDZ. The agreement is a reimbursement grant with performance measures BEFORE any funds are distributed. The developers MUST: remove all structures and foundations; make storm water improvements on the site; put in new infrastructure around the property like sidewalks, street improvements, utilities, etc.; build Phase 1 which is at least 130,000sf of vertical construction; obtain Certificate of Occupancy for at least three anchor tenants; and make an investment of at least $34M. Once all that happens they will be eligible to get reimbursement up to $6.5 million. So when someone says we spent $6.5 million dollars on a mall. It is not true! But I hope we do because that will be a good investment for NBEDZ. Think of all the new jobs the retailer will create (more than 800), and the new tax base we will have on those properties.
Rumor #7: We should spend the money on helping the Indian River Lagoon. We are actually. Because this property was originally developed in 1969, it didn’t have storm water requirements. I know you’ve driven down US1 during a heavy downpour and your car is half underwater at the corner of Harrison. Maybe you hadn’t considered this, but this is actually a major storm water project that includes dry, pervious retention areas, lots of trees and green space. So instead of 30+ acres of pavement and concrete creating direct run off into the lagoon, it will now be captured and filtered first.
Rumor #8: The plans have changed and nothing will be built. Not true, this will be built in Phases. 354,000sf total. Cost of project estimated to be between $45-50 million.
So, What can you expect for 2016? Exxcel finally has all of the banking financing figured out. This has been the most difficult part of the project and has caused most of the delays. They have worked with 3 different banks trying to find the right terms to make the deal work for all involved. The loan commitments have been signed and closing will happen in early January.
Holly Carver in my office and I continue to work with multiple tenants to convince them they should invest in North Brevard. I must admit this has been a major challenge. Believe me when I tell you that the negative Social Media that they see doesn’t help…NOT AT ALL.
As of today this is the list of tenants that have either signed a lease with Titus Landing or have a signed Letter of Intent: Hobby Lobby, Parrish/Mayo, Beall’s Department Store, Rue 21, Epic Theater, Ulta, Dunkin Donuts, AT&T, Pet Supermarket, Firehouse Subs, Hair Cuttery, Ice Cream Store, Hair Salon, Mattress Store, Nail Salon.
We have met with several potential tenants who have shown sincere interest and are in the process of getting corporate approval (not done deals yet). A few of those include: HH Gregg, Tuesday Morning, Panera Bread, Rack Room Shoes, BBT bank. There are a handful of other tenants that we are working on. So, if we have no more road blocks you can expect to see Hobby Lobby and Parrish Medical Center/Mayo starting construction by January 20, 2016.
The mall continues to be my focus. I understand and share the frustration. As I said early in this letter, no one is more frustrated than me. I know the rumors will continue to spread like wild fire, and I know some people won’t believe a word I have written here. That’s ok! Proof is on its way. I appreciate that they are out there working on Christmas Eve. You’ve got my word that I will continue to work my butt off to make sure we do something nobody ever dreamed we could.
My wife, Rhoda and I wish each of you a happy and safe holiday season!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!