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Costco has become albatross for Renaissance expansion plan

By JACK WEATHERLY 

A group headed by developer Andrew Mattiace last year applied for a sales tax rebate of up to $29.6 million for expansion of the Renaissance at Colony Park less than a month before the state law that created the Tourism Tax Incentive expired.

Beating the repeal of the law enabled the Jackson developer to move forward with his plan for the so-called third phase of Renaissance, which would include a 100,000-square-foot Costco store.

But an eruption of opposition by west Ridgeland residents to the proposed development may have made Costco an albatross.

Residents have staunchly opposed the upscale discount store primarily because of increased traffic.

» READ MORE: Yarber contacts Costco about County Line Road site

“The reason you’ve got to have a big anchor store is to get the MDA funding,” Lawson Hester, a lawyer and resident of Dinsmor, an upscale neighborhood near the proposed development, said in a recent interview.

Renaissance at Colony Park LLC, managed by Mattiace, wants to develop the 43-acre site on Highland Colony Parkway south of Renaissance by using the Mississippi Development Authority incentive allowed under state law 57-28-3.

Mattiace has declined to respond to efforts by the Mississippi Business Journal to discuss the project.

Hester was among a number of residents who grilled Mattiace, president of the development company, and Costco representatives at a town hall meeting that drew several hundred at Ridgeland High School on Aug. 21.

In a related matter, the Ridgeland Board of Aldermen Tuesday night voted 6-1 to refinance a $1.9 million unpaid balance on a $5.36 million bond issue for a Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, project along County Line Road in which a Lowe’s store and storage rental property were redeveloped.

Another limited liability corporation managed by Mattiace, LR Co. LLC, was granted the TIF status. The company fell behind on its payments and the city sued it for $261,460 but later forgave all but $25,000 and, according to Secretary of State records, the LLC was dissolved on May 4, 2013.

Ken Heard, alderman for Ward 1, which includes all of west Ridgeland, voted against the refinancing, saying that Mattiace should have stood behind the debt.

Heard said that some of his constituents are willing to take the matter to the state Supreme Court.

The board also voted Tuesday night 5-2 not to raise property taxes, which would have been by about 5 percent, with Wes Hamlin and Scott Jones voting for the increase.

Of the third phase of Renaissance with Costco, Hester said: “I think it’s going to meet citizen opposition at every single stage.”

A Costco representative at the Aug. 21 gathering said that it rejected five other locations in the city, either because they were too small or the wrong configuration.

The official said the Phase III site is “ground zero” for the Seattle-based chain.

Still, the official said the wholesaler has never met such opposition. It has 672 stores in the United States and around he world.

The Renaissance expansion qualified under state law as a “cultural retail attraction,” which “combines destination shopping with cultural or historical interpretive elements specific to Mississippi” with a private investment of at least $50 million and is part of a master-planned development with total investment of at least $100 million and has a minimum of 50 retail tenants and 300,000 square feet under roof.

Mattiace said the third phase would be built simultaneously with the second phase on the north side of Renaissance, which would include a major water feature and a boutique hotel. That phase would not be part of the MDA incentive plan.

The MDA tax rebate would be 30 percent of project costs, which Mattiace said at the Ridgeland High meeting would be between $90 million and $100 million, or roughly $26.9 million, or within 10 years after the project opens, whichever comes first.

After that, all sales tax revenue would go to the city.

Mattiace said in response to a question at the Aug. 21 town hall meeting that the project would not seek to become a tax increment financing district, which uses property tax generated by an economic development project to pay for a bond issue for infrastructure in the project.

About Jack Weatherly

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