Construction has finally begun on the long-in-development, 110-acre Oak Grove Village mall project, near Fort Campbell. John Null explains the hold-up and what Oak Grove Village might do for the cities of Hopkinsville and Oak Grove.
Perhaps it was fitting that on first attempt, the purple ribbon proved a worthy adversary for the oversized novelty scissors wielded by former state senator Joey Pendleton at last week’s ceremony. Pendleton, a consultant on the project, said the site has seen multiple ceremonial beginnings over the last half decade.
“We broke ground down here at this same spot,” Pendleton said. “We lifted balloons off – it wasn’t a groundbreaking – but lifted balloons off one time down there, just to say we’re here and they’re looking at coming. Nothing real definite at that time. And then we came here for the groundbreaking. Then we had some slowdowns with the state.”
Pendleton said the fits and starts were a result of the project’s uncommon tax increment financing with the state, which he said was a learning process for everyone involved. With that out of the way, last week’s ceremony was a little different than the ones that came before it. Besides the purple ribbon, the stark plot was marked by another color – the merrygold of several Caterpillar machines, ready to move dirt.
New York City-based developer Monte Albers de Leon said his family has made a large investment in the project, but stopped short of a round number.
“Sizable I think would be the right term right now,” Albers de Leon said. “Right now, we’re going to be focusing on phase one of course, and as it goes on, I think it’s safe to say, it’s a 110-acre site, and there will be a substantial amount of economic investment into the area.”
Albers de Leon - whose family has other development projects in California, Nevada and Texas - said the first phase of the project will be completed by November. The only confirmed tenant thus far is a 13-theater Carmike Cinemas multiplex, but restaurants and big box retailers are currently being courted.
Pendleton said when all is said and done, phase one could generate as many as 800 jobs, with as many as 400 construction jobs. He says when completed, the mall will have generated 1,500-2,000 jobs.
Meanwhile, Pendleton said Oak Grove Village will not only keep money in Kentucky, but bring revenue into the commonwealth.
“Clarksville has built up so much, and there’s not hardly anywhere else they got to go,” Pendleton said. “This right here, and with our sales tax difference between Kentucky and Tennessee, would give more incentives for people to come over here and shop on the Kentucky side.”
Oak Grove Mayor Dan Potter said commercial projects like Oak Grove Village are bringing Christian County’s two major cities together.
“It’s going to fill in,” Potter said. “The interstate right here. Hopkinsville keeps coming this way, and everything, and we keep trying to push that way. So it’s just a matter of a little time until we connect.”
Pendleton compared the convergence of Oak Grove and Hopkinsville to the relationship between New Providence and Clarksville, Tenn. – the former was annexed to the latter in the 1960s. Last year, the Tennessean reported Clarksville was named the second fastest growing city in the U-S. Also last year, Hopkinsville was named the fastest growing city in Kentucky. A confederacy with Oak Grove, through commercial projects like Oak Grove Village, could potentially catapult Hopkinsville onto the national list. Or at least give Fort Campbell soldiers a reason not to cross the state line.