CROSSVILLE – A Crossville developer and businessman is looking to build a 50,000-square-foot speculative building in the city – a “unique” investment by a private citizen, officials say, one that could help fill the void of available, marketable industrial properties in Cumberland County.
L.E. “Butch” Smith plans to purchase a 9.09-acre tract on Wyatt Court from the city at a cost $25,000 per acre to construct the structure, complete with 30-to-34- foot ceilings. According to Smith, the total investment is around $2 million with necessary financing provided by First National Bank of Tennessee.
The vast majority of spec buildings are publically funded and publically owned; it’s rare for a private citizen to initiate such a process.
“We desperately need buildings to market,” Brad Allamong, president of the Crossville/Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce, said. “We do not have a building to put in front of people who are looking. I commend Mr. Smith for this, and I hope more people step forward. And this is really unique, and I’m in full support of it.”
The city agreed to the land sale and a pair of incentive requests. Smith’s proposal letter to the city asked for “any incentives typically offered to any potential client.” Smith specifically requested that proceeds from the land sale – roughly $227,250 – be put into an escrow account by the city for a period of three years. From that account, he would be rebated $5,000 for each permanent full-time position created. Smith also proposed property tax abatements similar to payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) programs offered to other industrial firms. Smith would additionally need fill material from the city to bring it up to grade.
“I don’t see how this can’t be a win- win situation for the community,” Councilmember Pam Harris said.
The PILOT request needs county and industrial development board approval. And sale of city property is subject to a 30-day period, and public notice is given. If a petition of 10 percent of registered city voters request it, the sale must go before a referendum – an unlikely scenario but one that must be taken into consideration.
Smith said his companies are already the largest operators of industrial space in Crossville – some 900,000 square feet of space is either owned or managed by his firm. Clients include CoLinx, Crossville Ceramics, Manchester Tank, StonePeak, Ficosa, TLD and Averitt Express.
Asked if he planed to lease or sell the proposed building, Smith told the UCBJ, “I’d do either one, whatever a company wants to do, that’s what we’d do,” he said. “By far the majority of all companies want to lease something. Nobody wants to own it.”
He said the project is a long-term investment. The first step is to secure a tenant.
According to Smith, that last city-built spec building neighbors the 9 acres he’s seeking. It was built as a shell and sold to a company that planned to do computer recycling, but after numerous delays, the city took it back and sold it to him. Smith said he put additional money in the building to finish it out and has been leasing it since.
Smith also operates Central Storage in Crossville, a 370,000-square-feet building in the old Avery-Dennison Carter Ink factory site on West Avenue. Central Storage’s operation includes office and professional space, commercial warehouse facilities and a variety of self- storage units, some of which are climate controlled.