A wooden sign in a vacant lot on Highway 84 in Walthourville has proclaimed “Shopping Center Coming Soon” for several years. It appears it is finally coming true.
Ebrahim “Abe” Nadji, engineering director for the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission, could not say the 17-acre site will be the long-awaited shopping center, but the lot is being developed.
“The site was designed for up to eight parcels with six or seven along the front and one on the back side,” said Nadji, who noted the site borders both Highway 84 and Shaw Road.
“The parcel on the back side is large enough for a grocery store, but we don’t know what might go there. We do know that one parcel right on 84 is supposed to have a Family Dollar store.”
Walthourville Mayor Daisy Pray said she could not confirm that Family Dollar is indeed going in the site, nor could she confirm any other stores rumored to be coming. She said she was waiting for confirmation from the construction company and developer.
Nadji said the site is being prepared for development with roads and utilities in place for whoever is interested in buying it. At the end of this phase of development, he said the site will have two retention ponds. One pond will be exclusively for the Family Dollar store — if the company closes on the property. That retention pond catch mostly road drainage, he said.
He said anyone interested in developing on one of the other parcels may have to build their own retention pond for drainage. He added that before stores or restaurants decide to buy or lease a site, they conduct site studies.
Aaron Duncan, broker and owner of U.S. Real Estate Professionals, said he is working on the commercial site through LeConte Properties, which is owned by the family of the late Gary Dodd. The Dodd family owns the property, he said. Dodd, a businessman and philanthropist, owned several McDonald’s franchises and worked with the National Operators Advisory Board and McDonald’s National Leadership Council. Duncan could only speculate that Dodd’s ties with McDonald’s led to rumors that a McDonald’s might go in the site.
Duncan said he also is a developer and has hired Providence Construction Co.
“I hired them to do the site work — the roadway, paving, water and sewer and (other utilities),” he said. “I’ve been working with a developer since September of last year — talking, planning and working. Family Dollar has not closed on the property, but I would think there is a 95 percent chance they will.”
He said he’d like to see specific stores and restaurants but could not talk about it.
Duncan agreed with Nadji, noting the parcel on the back side of the site is large enough for a grocery with substantial parking lot. He wouldn’t say whether other stores or restaurants have expressed interest, having signed a non-disclosure agreement. He did say, however, that “for sale” signs soon will go up on each parcel.