Woessner says Rolla West land sale puts area in position for more retail growth



The land that will become Westside Marketplace has been sold to the developer, UTW Realty Inc., now that the Transportation Development District has been formed and the financing is assured for street improvements that will help draw customers to the shopping center.

"The sale of the 85 acres at Rolla West closed on March 10," Investment Realty Inc. President Mike Woessner announced.

Clearing of the property and burning were scheduled to begin this month in preparation for blasting. According to Bloomsdale Excavating officials, speaking at a forum in mid-February, that blasting and earth-moving will start soon after April 1 on the site.

Westside Marketplace will be located across Interstate 44 next to the double traffic circles at the Kingshighway overpass, Exit 184.

Woessner estimated 150 construction workers would be needed to build the Menards, PetSmart, Academy Sports, TJ Maxx and Ross Dress for Less stores that "are expected to be open in late spring 2018 into the summer of 2018."

Opening of those retail stores "will provide approximately 300 permanent jobs in the new retail center," Woessner said, and he predicted that will be "the beginning of more restaurants and retailers coming to this area."

In fact, Woessner said he has "already been contacted by a couple of entities about locating at that exit and near the proposed center."

"New growth always brings more activity and this center will have far-reaching effects on the growth of Rolla and the surrounding area," he said. "We are in the biggest growth phase that Rolla has ever seen, not only in retail development but in all phases of development around town including housing, commercial and university growth."

Declared Woessner: "I've been serving the Rolla area for some 33 years now, and this without a doubt is the most exciting time I've seen in those 33 years."

For Woessner, the project started around 2008 when he began to think about areas in Rolla that retailers would find attractive.

"We were falling behind compared to other towns our size in attracting new big-box retailers and smaller stores," Woessner said. "With my knowledge and connections to the retail developers I knew that 99 percent of the new retail centers in small towns were locating near interstates for exposure."

Woessner said he figured out that "if there was going to be any significant retail growth in Rolla the most probable area would be on the west side of town for the Fort Wood influence and on the north side of the interstate since it was the only large site left that was undeveloped and could continue to grow and expand."

He and his wife, Linda, bought the land and "after the purchase, I worked tirelessly promoting the site at commercial conventions and through my contacts," he said. "I began working with two other developers before I decided to work exclusively with UTW Realty Inc., who was working with retailers that would benefit our town the most."

The closing of the sale to UTW comes at the close of a cooperative arrangement with the developer, the city government, the Phelps County Commission and the Missouri Department of Transportation, Woessner said, "to bring a $50 million retail development to Rolla."

He said the development was the "catalyst for a $32 million transportation district that will extend Highway 72 and connect it to Interstate 44 at Kingshighway," along with other improvements to the Highway 63 and Kingshighway.

"The developer, UTW Realty, said they were pleased it went in as smooth as it did," Woessner said, "and they said there is more interest in Rolla for them, so this project has far-reaching effects."

There were other organizations that assisted in laying the groundwork for the sale that will lead to the development.

"RMU (Rolla Municipal Utilities) has been phenomenal to work with," Woessner said, adding, "And it was a pleasure and an honor to work with Cyndra Lorey and the Rolla Regional Economic Commission. They played an integral part as group liaison between government and private (enterprise)."

The Rolla City Council will hear the final reading and adopt an ordinance approving the final documents for the Westside Marketplace's pubic financing plan at the March 20 meeting. Documents referred to in that ordinance are the financing agreement, a bond purchase agreement, intergovernmental cooperative agreement, administrative services agreement and technical assistance contract. Transportation development district bonds are to be sold March 21 and the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission bonds will be sold in early April.