Indian Trail aims for future with recent projects
One movie theater can make the difference between keeping tax dollars in Union County or see them flood across the border to Charlotte, planning experts say. On Wednesday, Nov. 17, Indian Trail announced that Stone Theatres will open with 14 screens as part of the Sun Valley Commons Phase III project.
“Today is one of those examples where one wants to use the cliche ‘bigger and better things yet to come’ … however, this is about as big and better as it gets,” Indian Trail Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Goodall said. “This project sets the bar for quality economic development, which this council has been striving for over three years.”
The project will add 27.7 acres to Sun Valley Commons, which will encompass 53 acres of retail and restaurants when complete.
“This development will change the shopping pattern for southern Mecklenburg County and all of Union County, keeping residents at home and spending (here),” Moser Group president Dennis Moser said.
The final price tag for the project comes out to an estimated $60 million, with an estimate that it will add more than 500 jobs. The movie theater itself will hire up to 50 employees, Stone officials said.
Typically in an economic downturn, you would see towns like Indian Trail pull back on spending or promotion, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Urban Institute Director Jeff Michaels said. In this current climate, things have become a bit different. Businesses and people need a reason to stay in Union County, instead of crossing over the border.
“Twenty years ago, you saw a lot of people mocking the idea of a downtown, as strip malls were the wave of the future,” Michaels said. “But now as an urban planner, I see more of a desire … for a sense of community. They’re looking for a reason to be interested. There’s a push to have a gathering place, a commons to get together.”
Creating a “destination” for residents, with a theater, sportsplex or a another entertainment venue, is critical if towns want to generate traffic, Michaels said.
“It’s very important to have an attraction, something to draw people in,” Michaels said.
The problem, he added, is towns often don’t build on their success and find themselves stuck with strip malls or other mini-developments.
“Just building an attraction or creating a destination doesn’t automatically mean success,” Michaels said. “(Success) will depend on the (mix of retail), if it fits the area.”
The research shows people will come to the Sun Valley area, Moser Group marketing specialist Katherine Southard said.
“Based on our research, the Sun Valley Commons area is underserved by retail and restaurants,” Southard said. The theaters will pull people from other areas, who might be experiencing Indian Trail for the first time.
While that can happen, Michaels said, he also cautioned that towns need to have patience, as individual projects can take months to build momentum. A project starting in 2009 may not realize success until 2011.
End of the line
Indian Trail council members Robert Allen and Darlene Luther can attest to the timetable and patience needed. The two have worked the last few months, making phone calls, providing documents and answering questions from Stone Theaters officials.
“It’s vindicating” to see this happen, Allen said. “Our platform was about economic development, but from the time we were sworn in, it’s like we’re getting rotten produce thrown at us. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not going on.”
Luther understood people’s concerns about the council.
“For years, we’ve been known as the planning town,” Luther said. “Now they’re going to see the bulldozers in a couple of months, and they’ll know we’re moving forward.”