County using $15 million to lure Bass Pro Shops
TAMPA - Hillsborough County officials have offered $15 million in incentives to bring outdoors retailing giant Bass Pro Shops to a site between Interstate 75 and Falkenburg Road. The deal, outlined in documents released for the first time Tuesday, calls for the county to reimburse the owner of the land and developer, David Verardo, for $9.5 million worth of road improvements on Palm River Road and Falkenburg Road, plus $5.5 million toward building the 145,000-square-foot Bass Pro store. The money for the store would be in yearly payments of $550,000 per year for 10 years. To get the full amount, Bass Pro Shops must show yearly gross sales of $55 million. The cash incentive would be reduced proportionally if the store can't meet those sales figures. The offer may be moot, however, because Verardo and Bass Pro Shops have not come to an agreement on how much the company should pay the developer."The reality is it's kind of broken down between Bass and Verardo," said county commission Chairman Ken Hagan, who has worked on bringing the outdoors store to Hillsborough for two years. "It's been one step forward, two steps back." Neither Verardo nor Bass Pro Shops officials could be reached for comment. But local attorney Vincent Marchetti, who has worked with Verardo on the project, said the deal has a good chance of moving forward now that the county has developed its incentive package. "It's been less than a month since the county finalized its incentive package," Marchetti said. "These deals take a long time to come to fruition." Bass Pro Shops, which enjoyed tremendous growth before the recession hit in 2008, is known for demanding generous concessions from local governments and playing hardball with developers. The stores are like min-theme parks where customers can enjoy waterfalls, restaurants, indoor ponds with live fish and thousands of guns, fishing poles, knives and other outdoors equipment.County Administrator Mike Merrill said the $15 million investment would yield a hefty return for taxpayers. Bass Pro Shops is considered a "destination" retailer that will draw customers from 100 to 200 miles away. That means plenty of overnight guests who will spend money at hotels, restaurants and other retailers, generating millions of dollars in sales and bed taxes for the county. "Oftentimes, a family will come spend the weekend," Merrill said. "Bass is the attraction but then they go to other venues that produce other tourist taxes and other sales taxes." Bass Pro Shops would be the anchor for a 21-acre development, called The Estuary. The development also calls for additional retail space of at least 475,000 square feet, 27,500 square feet of office or commercial space and a 90-room hotel. The county estimates the store's annual sales would be more than $61 million initially and it would have an assessed property value of $16.4 million in 2013. Merrill said when the development is fully built out it will generate annual property taxes of $2 million and sales taxes of $14.8 million. The unincorporated county's share of those taxes will be $3.8 million. An estimated 369 direct, permanent, full-time jobs would be created at the store, according to county documents. The total Estuary project would create an estimated 1,517 temporary construction jobs over five years and 1,327 full-time equivalent retail jobs, according to county documents.
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