ATHENS – Did someone say Athens was growing?
There was certainly some tell-tale dirt being shoveled this morning along U.S. 72 near I-65, behind Wendy’s.
It is the site of the new Athens Marketplace, which will bring several first-time big box retailers to Athens including TJ Maxx, Ross Dress for Less, Ulta, Five Below and Rack Room Shoes.
The project will create 125 jobs and expects to generate annual taxable sales of about $20 million, officials said.
Developed by Noon Real Estate, the groundbreaking ceremony included Mayor Ronnie Marks for the City of Athens and the Athens-Limestone Chamber of Commerce.
Marks said the additional shopping options meet a need expressed by residents, and help grow the city’s sales tax base.
“Sales tax makes up about 40 percent of our revenue to fund police, fire, sanitation, parks, paving and other services,” Marks said. “The more options we can provide in Athens from small business to major chains, the less sales tax dollars leave our city.”
According to Athens’ 2040 comprehensive plan, community and stakeholder meetings, and retail research, Athens lacks considerably in clothing sales compared to other markets.
While downtown Athens specialty shops offer highly customized merchandise, there is a lack of discount department clothing stores. The research specifically mentioned TJ Maxx and Ross.
Chamber President Pammie Jimmar said the groundbreaking marks the beginning of a transformation for this area.
“This brings several additions of new retail stores in our community that the citizens have been requesting for years,” Jimmar said. “This project will also provide job opportunities for residents in our community and boost the city’s economy.
“We are so thrilled Noon Real Estate is making a huge investment in our community.”
Jamey Flegal with Noon Real Estate said his agency is proud to bring an exciting line-up of best-in-class retailers that are all new to the Athens community.
“The Athens Marketplace is a wonderful example of City leaders working together with private business to bring shopping opportunities to their community and keeping sales tax dollars at home,” Flegal said.
Stewart Perry is the general contractor for the project and Grayson Carter & Son is the site work contractor.