Thursday, May 30, 2013

Anderson starts building at the interchange, but development across the highway is still uncertain

By Katie Ledford
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

A combined Shell station and convenience store drive-thru Subway restaurant has begun to rise on the old Weems property at the Interstate 64 interchange and should be open in less than five months, developer Dennis Anderson says.

Anderson has yet to move on a much larger project, the residential and commercial development at Midway Station, the failed industrial park across the interstate from the Weems lot. It could take some time, but will be done efficiently, Anderson said in an interview last month. “It’s my intent to not pull the trigger until we can get in there and know that it will be successful,” he said.

The interview provided the first look at Anderson’s hopes for Midway Station, which if fully developed could double the size of the town.

In January of 2011, Anderson signed an agreement to buy Midway Station within 35 months. He pays the taxes on the property as well as the interest on the money that the county and city borrowed to buy and develop the property.

He said the property will probably take 15 years to fully develop depending mostly on the housing market, which is coming back slowly.

Anderson said he may start with a building in Midway Station’s industrial zone, at the rear of the property, to house the Photizo Group, a research and consulting firm now in a building on West Main Street in Midway.

Part of Midway Station is zoned to be residential rental, which could change the nature of the Midway area. Bozarth said, “We need additional housing in Midway. This will be a mixed use development like Townley Center in Lexington which combines commercial and residential.”

Anderson, who developed Townley, said he will not rent to people who have been charged with misdemeanors or felonies. However, he will overlook at least one DUI charge. “It’s all about safety,” he said. “Safety and social interaction are our primary concerns.”

Anderson Communities is patient and persistent about its developments. “It’s important that we do it right,” said Anderson, who has been in the business for 22 years. His first project was McConnell’s Trace, a 500-home development on Leestown Road across from Masterson Station Park in Lexington.

Anderson, 60, acknowledged that he might sell his Midway Station interest before the property is fully developed. He said he would not sell his properties to anyone unless they “would do a good job and could do a good job with it.”

Plat of former Weems property, with Shell building marked (Click on image for larger version)
As for the Weems property, Anderson said the Shell station will have a very distinctive style to its architecture. It will feature a green gabled roof with a cupola, to match the rest of Midway’s character. Unlike the current gas station across Georgetown Road, he said, “A gas station with a clean bathroom is important.”

Harry Seeger, owner of Midway Fuel Co., which operates the small station, did not return calls seeking comment on the future of his business. Before the recession, he talked of plans to expand the station into a larger, more modern facility and protecting the Midway Oak tree as he built.

The Weems property plat includes locations for a hotel, a Subway restaurant, another stand-alone restaurant and a small retail store. Anderson said he has talked to representatives of hotel chains, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Dollar General and Family Dollar about coming to the Weems property. He called Midway an “underserved area” and said they are trying to attract people to the town.

Local officials welcome the Weems property development, at the southeast corner of the interchange. “We try to be business friendly and want to encourage businesses to locate to Midway,” said Mayor Tom Bozarth. “The addition of a Shell station and a Subway will be good additions to our community.”

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