Oby's granted extra year to start building

TUPELO – Oby’s has received another year to wait out the economy and start construction on its Fairpark restaurant.
The Tupelo Redevelopment Agency, the governing body for Fairpark, on Tuesday extended the contract to 2010 for franchise partners David Calhoun and Ayers Spencer, whose project has been stalled by the recession.
“We’re still excited about coming to Tupelo,” Spencer said Wednesday. “We still want to do it. We’re waiting for the economy to shape up. As soon as it does, we’re planning on moving forward.”
Spencer and Calhoun bought the lot, which is across the street from the Hilton Garden Inn and just west of the Renasant Center for IDEAs, in 2006.
They had hoped to open a New Orleans-style restaurant, similar to their current Oby’s operation in Oxford, by fall 2007.
The timeline changed as the project was slowed down by design issues, the construction bidding process and the economy, Calhoun said.
A buyback clause, included in most Fairpark property contracts, requires the owners to start development within two years of the purchase date. If they don’t, TRA has 12 months to buy the property back at the original price.
Oby’s buyback option was set to expire Nov. 27. The amended contract changes the date to Nov. 27, 2010.
TRA Chairman John Oxford said the agency wanted to work with Calhoun and Spencer because they have repeatedly stated their commitment to the Tupelo market, but have said they want to build when the time is right.
The two business partners also hold the franchise rights for Southaven and the greater Memphis area, and Spencer said that franchise is in the same situation as Tupelo’s.
With the new contract, TRA can buy back the Fairpark property from Oby’s any time during the next year. City attorney Guy Mitchell told board members that along with giving the restaurant breathing room, the option is advantageous to them because they can get the property back if someone else makes an offer on it.
It’s a good business decision, Oxford said, but he still wants to see Oby’s in Fairpark.
“I wish I could wave a wand and they would show up, but I can’t,” he said.
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.

Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal