Highlands Park still on pace for fall completion
Liz Engel Clark
Friday, Jul 6, 2012
The Highlands Business Park master plan.
The park, consisting of 367 acres south of Cookeville, has been under construction since early May 2011. The most recent phase includes the construction of a bridge overpassing a local stream and the extension of nearby Lee Seminary Road.
Once finished, the park will include top-end utilities, like a new electrical substation, telecommunication capabilities, sewer and more. Officials with the city of Cookeville have already applied to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in order to certify the site for a data center. Officials are also seeking Select Tennessee Site certification from the state. The program, recently rolled out by the Department of Economic and Community Development, involves an extensive application process, but if approved, the Highlands Park would be marketed as part of the program.
“We went ahead and sent in our letter of intent to participate; it doesn’t cost anything, but you do have to apply and the site does have to be approved,” said Melinda Keifer, economic and community development coordinator for the city of Cookeville. “If I’m a site selector and I’m looking for locations, I’m looking for the place that has done their due-diligence. It puts you one level above the million steps (it takes to land a deal).”
As far as the next steps, Cookeville City Manager Jim Shipley said they’re still debating the necessity of a speculative building – saying it’s a “scary kind of thing to invest money in” considering the possibility it could sit empty for a considerable amount of time. He says there’s no possible way to predict when the park might land its first tenant.
“At some point, we will land some companies to go in the park,” he said. “And that will be a big help to this entire region.”
The Highlands Park project is being jointly developed by the city and Putnam County. Both parties made initial $7.2 million investments for the park’s infrastructure in 2008. Overall, it’s been about a 10-year project to produce what’s now in high-demand – shovel-ready land.
“It’s almost a risk management business - anything we can do to lower our risk of being left behind,” Keifer said. “And, even when it’s all done, there still are no guarantees, but if we don’t do anything, we’re not even in the game.”