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What will develop in 2009?
Projects on hold, waiting for economic recovery
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A planned large retail development on a tract of land along Ga. 365 north at the Georgia Mountains YMCA has been put on hold due to the recent downturn of the economy. - photo by Tom Reed

If you're looking for a parade of bulldozers and cranes as a sign of new commercial and industrial development in 2009, you may have to wait until the second half of the year.

New projects, some announced a year ago, are on hold and hinge on the recovery of the economy.
"Most commercial developments are in some state of suspended animation right now," said Frank Norton Jr., a Gainesville real estate executive who monitors economic trends. "They have not been stopped, but they have been shelved as retailers try to ascertain Christmas sales and try to evaluate consumer confidence and when it will return."

Two cases in point are retail developments at the end of Interstate 985 on the Ga. 365 corridor.
One year ago, the Gipson Co., an Atlanta-based shopping center developer announced plans for Mountainbrook Farm, an open-air shopping development with a mix of big box and specialty retailers.

Gipson is no stranger to Northeast Georgia. The company currently owns McEver Corners, the shopping center at the intersection of McEver Road and Dawsonville Highway that is home to Kohl's and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

The company also has a Wal-Mart anchored center in Cornelia.

Also on the shelf is a nearby retail development on Ga. 365 planned by Gainesville businessman Broughton Cochran.

Norton said the only movement in the retail sector is in supermarkets.

"Food store related users look at this market as underserved," Norton said, pointing to new stores in South Hall and Jackson County that are flourishing.

Norton still contends that Hall County is in need of additional retail stores, but predicts that situation will not correct itself until major retailers begin to see signs of overall improvement in the national economy.
Gainesville civic leader Philip Wilheit, a member of the Georgia Board of Economic Development said the situation is the same statewide.

He pointed to the recent announcement of the closure of the Cooper Tire plant in Albany which will put 1,400 people out of work.

"They had to close three plants and went state to state to see which one would give them the most money," Wilheit said. "You reach a point of diminishing returns on that."

But he agrees that things should turn in the second half of 2009.

"There's going to be some pent-up demand in six or eight months from industries that are looking right now, but are going to take a wait and see attitude," Wilheit said.

Both Wilheit and Norton said financing is available for good projects.

"If you're project is speculative, then financing may be a problem," Wilheit said. "But if the project has the right performer and the right guarantees, there is money available."

Norton said having the firm commitment of a solid retailer is a selling point to financiers.

"A food store, drug store or medium-size box will get you to the threshold point," Norton said. "You'll see nothing without pre-commitment."

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