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Plans for new retail center unveiled

Posted: Sunday, June 06, 2004

During a more undeveloped era in Columbia County's history, the Marshall family's land spread out in a wide swath in the middle of Evans.


The Marshall family has plans to develop an upscale shopping center similar to this artists rendering on their property on North Belair Road neat the Evans government center.

Photo by Jim Blaylock

The land was sold off and became hosting sites for businesses, government offices and the Evans courthouse along Ronald Reagan Drive.

And there's more in store for remaining parcels of the former farm land.

As majority owners in a 55-acre lifestyle center being proposed off North Belair Road, the family's name will grace the Marshall Square project that if successful could result in a half a million square feet of mixed-use development.

"I think it's especially appropriate that a name long-associated with the history of Columbia County, you could say a pioneering family, is also the name that is going to bring this future to us today," Bill Coleman, chairman of the county's development authority, said during an announcement of the project Thursday.

On Friday, county economic developers reconvened to announce the locating of a John Deere supplier, which will become the first tenant in the Horizon North industrial park.

Iowa-based Firstco will build a 150-square-foot facility at a cost estimated close to $3.5 million in the park to supply tires to John Deere.

The company plans to initially hire 25 workers, and county officials hope the move will help land other prospects to fill the 260-acre park being developed by Blanchard & Calhoun.

As for Marshall Square, the open-air center is intended to combine high-end national retailers, office space, residential areas, a hotel and convention center.

"It would serve us much, much better than a mall," Development Authority Executive Director Zack Daffin said. "It plays a different role, it helps to give us identity as well."

Commission Chairman Ron Cross also said the project, with its close proximity to the county government complex and library and performing arts center now under construction, would help create a central gathering area.

"This gives us the identity for the Evans Town Center as far as I'm concerned," he said, adding that county officials are hoping Doctors Hospital will decide to permanently keep a portion of their field behind the Evans Kroger for green space to accommodate public events.

Don Lawrence, who is marketing the property, said he will focus initially on finding local tenants for an office building fronting North Belair Road.

A three-lane connector road running along one side of the project between North Belair Road and Industrial Park Drive is under design work by the county.

The estimated $1.4 million road will be funded by 1-cent sales tax money and will run 0.6 of a mile, said Kevin Lear, the county's Construction and Maintenance Director.

The project must still receive zoning approval from county officials, who also have to decide what their role will be in the extension of Ronald Reagan Drive through the development.


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