By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – More access to The Mall at Barnes Crossing may soon be realized through an agreement that will connect the road circling the mall to the nearby Tupelo Commons retail development.
The tentative deal involves the mall’s owners gifting to the city of Tupelo a grassy parcel of land south of the Belk department store parking lot. In return, the city would take over maintenance of Mall Drive – which starts at Barnes Crossing Road and then loops around the mall – as well as Harmony Lane, Symphony Lane and Mississippi Drive, which feed into Mall Drive from North Gloster Street.
The city would then gift the property to Tupelo Commons owner and developer V.M. Cleveland, who would build a connecting road from Commonwealth Boulevard – which loops from North Gloster Street at Best Buy to behind Lowe’s – to Mall Drive.
The city and Cleveland have agreed to the deal. They are awaiting word from the mall’s co-owners – Kentucky-based David Hocker and Associates and New York-based Rouse Properties.
Shane Hooper, the city’s Development Services director, says the proposal is a “win-win-win for everybody.”
“It allows more traffic through Tupelo Commons and helps Mr. Cleveland market property to prospective clients,” he said. “It’s good for the mall because customers gain more access to the mall, coming from the south on North Gloster.”
Traffic on North Gloster near the mall is notoriously congested on many weekends and during the holidays as shoppers and diners flood into the area. The Commonwealth Boulevard-to-Mall Drive connector would be an ideal “back door” for people seeking to avoid North Gloster.
For the city, the benefit of the project would come via increased property taxes and sales taxes as the result of additional retailers and restaurants building in the area.
In taking over maintenance of the streets around the mall, the city would pick up 2.9 miles of roadway that the mall has had to look after since 1990. Hooper said engineers have done core samples of the roadbed and determined the streets are structurally sound.
“We’ve done our due diligence,” he said.
Under the city’s purview, the mall streets must meet city standards, and about $48,000 in immediate work must be done to seal some cracks, fill potholes and other minor work, Hooper said.
Cleveland said he was looking forward to having the connector road built between the two retail developments. It’s an idea discussed for years, and is now an attainable goal, assuming the mall’s owners sign off on the deal.
“Ideally we could get this done before Black Friday,” he said.
Cleveland said he had no objection to building the connector road.
“Everybody has to give up a little in something big like this, and I think it’s only fair that I should build it,” he said. “It’s hard to find a negative in any part of this deal.”