Developers who want to bring prominent coffeehouse chain Starbucks to one of Longview’s busiest intersections say they’re talking through issues with the city to keep their plan in motion.
Starbucks’ interest in property at 707 W. Marshall Ave. — a site that has been vacant since Waffle Shoppe Restaurant closed in September 2016 — was confirmed by an email from Fort Worth consulting firm The Woodmont Co. to the city of Longview’s Development Services division.
According to the email from Woodmont Development Associate Sherri Jones, developers want to demolish the vacant building for “a development project” that “will be a new Starbucks.”
Jones asked for service letters confirming that the city would be able to service water and sewer to the location and for the city to approve the use of an existing grease trap at the site.
Longview real estate broker John King Jr. and Grant Gary, president of brokerage services for The Woodmont Co., have spent the past 18 months piecing together a tentative deal in which Starbucks would invest about $2 million into the former Waffle Shoppe Restaurant site on West Marshall Avenue at Spur 63.
The site has been vacant since the restaurant closed in September 2016, but the potential tenant has paused on making an investment until a three-sided billboard at the site is removed, King and Gary have said.
Lamar Advertising owns the billboard and agreed to removing the sign if developers convert three other existing billboards in Longview into digital signs. City staff said that plan would violate the city’s sign ordinance on at least two fronts — a local law that would require six billboard signs be removed if three billboards are built or converted and a local law against digital signs for off-premise advertising.
“We are currently meeting with our consultants and other parties to figure out what we do next,” King said.
Development Services Director Michael Shirley has met with consultants for the project in the past week about finding ways to make the redevelopment happen while also meeting the spirit of the sign ordinance, he said.
One possibility is a Chapter 380 agreement, Shirley said. The state’s Local Government Code allows cities to offer incentives to promote economic development for commercial and retail projects through Chapter 380 agreements, and he said that such an agreement could help developers and the potential retailer buy out Lamar Advertising’s lease on the tri-billboard.
Longview City Council members entered a Chapter 380 agreement with Saigebrook Development last August when it loaned the Austin developer $600,000 to complete ongoing reconstruction of Alton Plaza at the Petroleum Building downtown.
“The property is obviously devalued because of the billboard, so the property owner needs to assume some of that loss in value, and the developer will” also have to share that financial burden, Shirley said. “The city shouldn’t have to carry the full burden.”
Developers also were told that Mayor Andy Mack and District 6 Councilman Steve Pirtle did not support any attempt to change the sign ordinance, Shirley said.
Shirley encouraged all sides of the potential agreement to “give a little bit and be a partnership” on a project that he said could be a catalyst for development on West Marshall Avenue.
“We want do do everything in our power where they can move forward with it,” Shirley said.