A group of entities, namely Mountain West Capitol and View 70 at Salina, have purchased over 500 acres south of Salina near Loves and the TA, and are currently working on a master plan, but expect something big to be happening within the next 12-18 months.
“We are going to try and create a development that is all inclusive, but these things take time,” said Jeff Bernson, investor. “Right now, we’re in the planning stages and are looking at the topography of the acreage; Once we know how much square footage is buildable, we will be better able to complete our Master Plan.”
He said the vision for the property is to include residential, industrial, commercial, maybe retail, and even hospitality elements in the development, and their goal is to augment what is already here. It is important to them that the developments are appealing and attractive as they add to Salina’s uniqueness, and to help create a solid job base so younger generations can stay and raise their families. Housing is an issue, and they’d like to see 400+ single family dwellings as part of their development efforts and possibly 250+ apartment units later down the road.
“We’re not carpet baggers,” Bernson said. “We plan to live there and be a part of the community as well. I’ve got four kids, and they’d like the smaller town lifestyle, and in talking with other acquaintances, this would be a very desirable place to be.”
Love’s is currently working on an RV park near their current facility, and Jeff also sees similar establishments as likely part of their long-term goals as the Blackhawk grows and expands. He’s also working with 1-2 quick serve restaurants and other possibilities in the hospitality industry and says they’re looking to change the face of Salina.
“We hope the community will enjoy the type of growth we’re looking at,” he said. “Our key is housing; we’ve got to get housing in there before anything else. If we want to bring in businesses, they’re going to need employees, but currently there’s really nowhere for them to live. We’ve got to get the rooftops there- Single family homes- affordable starter homes.”
In the past large corporations such as Walmart and Cabellas have looked at placing facilities in Salina, and he thinks his development group has the ability to draw significant interest from some major players such as them, but the housing will have to come first.
“This is a big project and we’re looking at the cost/value, and these things aren’t easy; it’s going to take some time, but when we get our master plan together, we will invite everyone to comment and get the community’s input,” Bernson said. “They say 5-10 years, but I think things will come together much quicker, say 3-6 years, but it’s really not up to us. Builders are out sometimes two years and getting supplies….”
In addition to attracting younger generations who’d like to raise their families in their hometown small town, statewide there is an exodus from bigger cities to small communities, and it is his belief that this type of development will also draw retirement age citizens. With that in mind, a retirement community may be part of the works, which will of necessity bring in medical providers for both citizens and their animal family members.
“Between the younger people who want to stay and the retirees who are tired of the city rat race, there’s also that middle to older age group whose children are grown and are looking for smaller primary and secondary residences,” he said. “People want to enjoy the fresh air and walk and feel safe and secure, and this is what we’d like to provide.”
Stakeholder meetings are in the works, and he reiterated that there’s obviously only so much that is feasible and marketable, but once they have nailed down what they’d like to do, they’ll work with the school district and other entities as to how the development will impact them. A million square foot distribution center would bring in $600-$800,000 each year in taxes which would significantly affect the schools and city.
“We want to augment the nice community there in Salina and are looking at high tech manufacturing developments, things that are great for the environment,” Bernson said. “We’re not looking at anything that will ruin what you’ve got down there. We don’t want people to feel threatened, and we will move one phase at a time, keeping the community involved in the comment processes.”