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Arena/expo center opening this summer

Tunica County anticipates continued development

ROBINSONVILLE — Spurred by construction of a new school in the north end of Tunica County, and the anticipation of a new Mississippi 304 that will link U.S. 61 to Interstate 55, a flurry of residential development is underway.

“A lot of development in the single family residential area is imminent,” said Greg Hurley, director of the planning commission for Tunica County. “We don’t see much development right now, but we have a lot of subdivisions approved that should go under construction soon, especially with all of the multifamily developments. These things take a natural course. The school coming in is jump-starting the developments. When you see rooftops, you’ll see amenities follow closely behind.”

Cypress Lakes Apartments, a new 160-unit multifamily property surrounded by a heavily landscaped 14-acre lake, is a joint venture between Makowsky & Ringel, a Memphis-based real estate firm, and Tunica businessman Shea Leatherman. Even though rents have been a bit pricey, leasing is going so well there’s already talk of a new phase.

The development of Delta LLC’s Cottonwoods Apartments, a 160-unit apartment complex located on property adjacent to RiverPoint Apartments, a 152-unit apartment complex that was fully occupied soon after its opening in 1996, was approved at the last planning commission meeting. With a mix of 48 one bedrooms, 104 two-bedrooms and eight three-bedroom apartments, Cottonwood’s builder, Charles Moore, is also the builder for Walter Wills’ upscale development, Canal Park Apartments, which will house approximately 200 units. Wills may sell tracts of Canal Park to developers, Hurley said.

The first phase of Shady Lane Apartments, located next to Nellie Johnson’s subdivision on Beat Line Road, east of Robinsonville, will house more than 40 units.

“The county is seeking local and private legislation to facilitate an apartment development south of Casino Strip near the Methodist Health Clinic,” he said. “It will have a drug store and/or grocery chain with it.”

Several timeshare units at Grandvista Resorts, a Branson, Missouri-based company, are complete. When finished, the 140-unit New Orleans-style timeshare development will house a 14,000-square-foot clubhouse, swimming pool and other amenities.

Sales were sluggish at first, but have picked up considerably at Robinsonville Commons, the city’s first planned single-family development, a joint venture of Kemmons Wilson and Wayne Todd. With a potential for 280 home sites in the first phase, planning for the second phase is underway.

Developers of The Orchards of Tunica, located in the vicinity of the new school, requested to be placed on an upcoming planning meeting agenda. Up to 80 lots could be located in the planned community.

When Casino Factory Shoppes opened last fall, Robinsonville residents and Tunica County tourists filled the first retail outlet stores in the area.

“By all accounts, the outlet mall is doing extraordinarily well,” Hurley said. “I’ve spoken with some of the owners and they are very pleased with it and have said they are doing 60% better than their rosiest projections. Now they’re talking about the next phase. It’s in an L-shape right now, and was always intended to be a U-shape, so they’re going to finish that out and develop outparcels.”

When complete, the 600,000-square-foot retail outlet center will cover 60 acres.

With continued residential and commercial activity, including a major revamp of Sam’s Town and the addition of another warehouse by Helena Chemical, the only industrial development currently in the planning stages in Robinsonville, the biggest problem facing Tunica County has a labor shortage, said Ken Murphree, county administrator.

“That’s a major issue in trying to attract other businesses to Tunica,” he said. “With 16,000 jobs in the casino market — it’s up 15% above the same time last year — it’s hard to attract other employers. We’re trying to provide adult skills training, but the fact of the matter is, with this kind of labor demand, almost anybody in Tunica County who’s looking for a job has got one. There are simply twice as many jobs as men, women and children who live here.”

Perhaps the busiest executive in Tunica County is newcomer A.C. Chapman, CFE, executive director of the Tunica Arena & Exposition Center, located on U.S. 61 North about three miles south of Robinsonville. Even though the center isn’t scheduled to open until the summer, Chapman is filling up the calendar with a variety of events.

“Among many other events, we’re especially getting calls for dirt shows — equestrian shows, rodeos, team ropings, bull ridings, monster trucks, tractor pulls — any event that requires dirt,” he said, with a laugh. “We’re working diligently with the Tunica County and Visitors Bureau to get conventions and trade shows to come to our part of the Delta.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com, mbj@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.


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