BLUEFIELD — The Blue-Prince Plaza facility has been sold and marketing for tenants has already started with “firm commitments.”
John O’Neil, executive director of the Mercer County Economic Development Authority (EDA), made the announcement Thursday morning, saying the EDA has purchased the massive 180,000-sq.-ft. complex from the Preservati family.
“The Development Authority has acquired this building to begin some economic activities,” O’Neil said, adding that the goal of the EDA is to be more “assertive and aggressive” in having a hand in creating economic development.
“We saw the opportunity to acquire a property that is in very good condition,” he said. “They (the Preservati family) have done a very good job caring for the building and they also have a passion for wanting to see things happen in the community.”
The process of finding tenants to bring jobs and investments into the county has been under way, he said, and prospects are on the horizon with announcements planned for the near future.
O’Neil said the EDA already has “firm commitments” from some future tenants. “We have quite a few good prospects we think will be in the building.”
“People in Mercer County remember a time when the Blue Prince Shopping Center was a major retail shopping complex,” O’Neil said. “That is probably not going to be the future of this building, not a bunch of retail outlets.”
Businesses locating there will could be “destination retail,” he said, referring to stores that customers seek out specifically for their particular products.
“We have looked at all kinds of different businesses,” he said, “It’s a spectrum across the board I can see possibly locating here.”
The Blue Prince property is the EDA’s first “significant project,” but more will come, he said, as the EDA takes more of a role in spearheading projects to bring jobs and investment into the county.
“This is the first of a number of steps of a similar nature we intend to take,” he said.
Although the interior of the complex is in good condition, O’Neil said some aesthetic improvements in the facade and the parking lot as well as with signage will happen over time.
EDA board member Frank Brady said the EDA started on the project about a year ago as talk of the possibility of taking on such initiatives began and “this property came into view.”
He said the purpose is to get tenants and bring the facility, located on Blue Prince Road beside the Mercer County Health Department, back to “being a productive part of the county.”
Brady said the EDA is being proactive in making the area “better and more productive for the county.”
“We think we’ve got a pretty good leg up with this purchase,” he said. “The more jobs we can create to have people coming into the our county and not going out of our county is a reward for us.”
County Commission President Gene Buckner, who is also a member of the EDA board, said the commission does all it can to work with the EDA to help the county grow and is “100 percent behind” the project.
“We started looking for a way for the Economic Development Authority to produce their own income and this is going to be a great step forward,” he said, referring to the EDA ownership and the subsequent rent from tenants. “Not only that, this is going to be a great income for people in the county … to create jobs and keep jobs. This is going to be a great step forward.”
O’Neil said the purchase price of the facility was $1.8 million and was paid for using primarily a low-interest loan that will be repaid with money collected as tenants move in.
Although commitments to locate there are coming in, space is still available for 4,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet of use, he added.
The plaza at one time was home to Hill’s Department Store, a Ponderosa steakhouse and other businesses but those closed in the early 1980s after nearby Mercer Mall opened.
— Contact Charles Boothe at firstname.lastname@example.org