Covenant Crossing

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 30, 2012

New hotel adds oomph to slow-moving development

By Billy Davis

The three-story Comfort Suites hotel now going up at Covenant Crossing in Batesville has increased interest about the remaining acreage at Highway 6 and Interstate 55 according to property owner Alvan Kelly.

But even with the Vaghela family investing in a new Batesville hotel, development of the remaining commercial property remains stagnant.

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Pam Comer, city code administrator for Batesville, said city records show Kelly has sold three lots so far, first to the Vaghela family for their hotel. The remaining two lots were purchased by the owner of the Mi Pueblo restaurant chain and by First Security Bank, she said.

Those same three lots had been sold at Covenant Crossing when The Panolian reported on Kelly’s progress four years ago this month, and today Kelly is still holding acres of prime real estate with no buyers.   

“It has water and sewer and gas. It’s 100 percent developed,” Kelly said of his property. “Now it’s just waiting for more customers.”

Kelly, of DeSoto County, owns Covenant Logistics in Olive Branch. He got the development bug after selling a lot in Hernando for the Mi Pueblo restaurant chain.

The Panolian first reported on Kelly and his commercial development in February 2006, when he spoke to the Batesville Rotary Club. Kelly told Rotarians he had purchased 134 acres west and north of Lowe’s from Rusty Hyneman, a well-known Memphis developer.

Kelly also bought 46 acres around Tri-Lakes Medical Center in the same real estate deal, the newspaper reported at the time.

Kelly described plans to land an anchor store — he named Target as an example — and planned to woo a cinema, restaurants, and shops.

Little news came from the rookie developer until the Vaghela family announced in late 2006 it had purchased five acres to build a high-end hotel in the west corner of the property that abuts the interstate.

The news of Mi Pueblo buying a lot came approximately a year later, and in 2008 Kelly told The Panolian he had sold the third lot to an unnamed Batesville business, which records show is First Security Bank.

By 2008 Kelly was looking for a seasoned developer to purchase Covenant Crossing, and he began negotiating with Boyle Development Group. The deal fell through.

Fourteen months later, the Batesville Planning Commission balked at developer Wesley Thompson’s plan to develop a high-density residential area north of Lowe’s. Kelly had planned to sell off 80 acres of property to Thompson but that deal fell through, too.

The newest good news for Kelly and his development came in 2009, when the same Planning Commission approved the Comfort Suites.

Reached this week, Kelly said he recently sold 22 acres of property near Wal-Mart to his brother-in-law.

The property is listed with Bob Leigh and Associates through Realtor Brad Baker of Batesville. Baker said the property is listed for $1.95 million, down from $2.4 million a few months ago.
Commercial developers are holding onto their money, said Baker, who cited the outcome of the Presidential election, “Obamacare,” and worries about the “fiscal cliff” as concerns voiced by the business community.

“A lot of them are sitting on the sides, worried like everybody else,” Baker added.

According to Kelly, he’s still courting shopping center developers rather than talking to companies directly, a practice most of them frown upon anyway, he said.

“All the good points about Batesville are still there,” Kelly said. “None of that has changed. In fact, it’s only gotten better.”  

“The lousy economy really tightened down commercial development,” said Baker, “but I think the hotel will definitely be an asset for Alvan.”