Crossing cleared

Vanderbilt and Vestar prepare to move ahead with shopping center

KINGMAN - Several parties involved in the Kingman Crossing regional shopping center project on Tuesday managed to reach a preliminary agreement with the Federal Highway Administration regarding ingress and egress points for the development north of Interstate 40.

Mayor John Salem and representatives of Vanderbilt Farms both called the agreement a "significant step" toward the project's eventual construction.

According to Salem, the Federal Highway Authority (FHWA) has been considering a new access management policy that would restrict the flow of traffic at exits along arterial streets in close proximity to an interstate highway. This was a major cause for concern for Vanderbilt and Vestar Development, the two firms jointly developing a regional shopping center at the interchange.

The developers' concern centered around the potential need to move their entrance and exit points away from their planned locations on Kingman Crossing Boulevard north of I-40, lest they cause traffic to back up onto the highway.

On Tuesday, the developers, with help from Arizona Department of Transportation Engineer Mike Kondelis, managed to reach a preliminary agreement with the FHWA to allow right-turn only ingress and egress for phase I and II of the shopping center.

Salem said moving the entrance and exit points farther away from the shopping center's anchor stores would have caused shoppers to pass them up for smaller retail outlets on the north side of the development and would likely have soured the developers' interest in pressing forward with it.

"From what I understand, this ingress/egress issue was the dealbreaker for whether they were going to go through with this project at all," Salem said. "Initially, it didn't look quite as promising, and now it's a done deal."

Done deal, of course, only refers to the entrance and exit points for now, but Vanderbilt's project manager Jerry Willis agreed with the mayor that the project has just overcome a major roadblock.

"When you have a large retail commercial project and your access is limited ... that makes it very hard to get traffic moving into your development," Willis said.

Willis called Tuesday's preliminary agreement "phenomenal news," adding that a revised preliminary design for the shopping center would be available to review for all parties involved within seven to ten days.

"The meeting was very positive and optimistic," he added.

Kingman was well-represented at Tuesday's meeting, even though city officials were not directly involved in the discussions, only commenting as needed. Present were Salem, acting City Manager Jack Kramer, Finance Director Coral Loyd, Development Services Director Gary Jeppson, Special Projects Administrator Rob Owen and Engineer Greg Henry.

Salem said he hoped the large Kingman presence would prove to the FHWA that the city is serious about moving forward with the project.

"This has been kind of the hold up as to why we haven't heard anything from Vanderbilt and Vestar for the last six or seven months," he said. "On a future agenda, more than likely we'll see representatives from Vanderbuilt and Vestar, to see if Council wants to direct staff to proceed with any kind of proposals for funding mechanisms for the Kingman Crossing interchange."

Stuart Goodman, a spokesman for Vanderbilt, said part of the reason the developer had assumed a low profile in Kingman was to avoid influencing the mayoral and Council elections held earlier this year.

"We did purposely pull back so residents could focus on electing a new mayor and a majority of the Council," Goodman said. "Until a new mayor and Council was elected, there was really nothing to discuss."

Goodman said that didn't mean Vanderbuilt was resting on its laurels in the meantime, however.

"We were doing a number of things - due diligence - we were meeting with (FHWA,) we were meeting with ADOT," he said. "We were certainly doing what we needed to do in order to prepare ourselves for when the time was right to become actively engaged in the process in Kingman."

With an access agreement finally reached, Goodman anticipated an increased presence from the developers over the coming months.

"We're going to work with the Council, work with staff to go through the normal development process," he said. "It's a great location for the community and the region, so we're going to continue chipping away at it."