Work near Home Depot ready to go’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 18, 2003

[12/18/03]The developer of The Home Depot site said Wednesday during a meeting with adjacent property owners that it’s time for the next phase of the project.

Jim Defoe, vice president of Ergon Properties, said plans along Halls Ferry Road where the former school stood include a national retail pharmacy and a fast-food restaurant. A strip center is also planned for the space between Halls Ferry Road and The Home Depot.

“Our time frame is immediately. We’re ready to go,” Defoe said.

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Before that work can begin, Defoe said developers are investigating enhanced traffic controls along Halls Ferry Road that could include installing a new traffic signal just south of the development area. Officials from Ergon and an engineer from Neel-Schaffer Inc., met with business owners to discuss the proposed traffic changes and how it could affect those businesses.

“The light is a plus. There’s no question about it. It’s just a matter of minimizing the amount of traffic building up,” said Charlie Tomlinson, the owner of the Hardee’s franchise at 3402 Halls Ferry Road.

Ergon is proposing to install a traffic signal at the north entrance to the Trustmark National Bank, which will line up with the south entrance into its development. Halls Ferry Road is one of the busiest in the city with an average daily traffic count of about 18,000 vehicles.

In addition to Trustmark and Hardee’s, another bank, a convenience store, an auto parts store and another strip center are in the immediate area. Ergon and city officials invited those business owners to a meeting to look over the plans and give their input into the project.

Robert Walker, an engineer with Neel-Schaffer, said the proposed signal will provide dedicated left-turn lanes improving the flow of traffic for the businesses.

“We think we’ll be adding safety to this area that in my mind is kind of dangerous,” Walker said.

Trustmark’s property manager raised concerns about bank traffic backing up into the intersection and that customers who now exit to the south will come back to the light to leave, blocking the bank’s main entrance.

Overall, most business owners said their concerns were limited and asked the engineer to look at certain traffic patterns, such as Saturday morning banking, and make some minor changes.

Defoe indicated they are willing to make some minor changes to the intersection for those businesses.

“(We’re) attempting to be a good neighbor and pump some life into that corner,” Defoe said.

Ergon will pay for the work at the intersection, but since it will become city property after the development is finished, the city will be involved in the process. James “Bubba” Rainer, head of the city’s public works division, said he believes the signal will be good for traffic flow on Halls Ferry Road.

Ergon was awarded up to $900,000 in tax increment financing by the city last year, which will help finance public improvements associated with the project. Those improvements could include the traffic signal at the entrance to The Home Depot, road improvements at Halls Ferry and Pemberton roads, and the proposed signal.

The national home improvement store opened in May and plans announced then included two more phases of development. Defoe did not say specifically what companies are looking at the new development, but said they have had letters of interest from several retailers.

A map of the plans shown to the business owners showed a Walgreen’s at Halls Ferry and Pemberton roads, but Defoe said those plans have not been made final.

An initial step for Ergon Properties was the purchase of the former elementary school on the site. The Vicksburg Warren School District was paid $425,000 for the building and land.