Plans for new NAPA store here arrive at City Hall
Last Thursday, officials at the city of Hastings officially received plans for one of the city's most-watched vacant commercial properties.
The former Jiffy gas station lot and adjacent lots at 15th and Vermillion streets may, by the end of the year, be a NAPA auto parts store.
The Linn Companies, based in Woodbury, is making the application to the city. Linn Companies also owns the Hastings Holiday convenience store and the Goodyear location in Hastings.
The application is expected to go to the Hastings Planning Commission June 14, and the Hastings City Council is expected to see the application at its June 21 meeting.
Since the Linn Companies' intent to build a NAPA store on the lot was made public two weeks ago, many citizens have raised a fair question: Why NAPA, especially since one just closed here a month ago?
Linn Companies president Stephen Linn answered that question.
"We had no affiliation with that NAPA," Linn said. "We didn't buy them out. We had no ownership in it. We were in no way affiliated with that store."
Linn said the new Hastings store will be approximately 8,800 square feet in size. What will make the store work, Linn says, is that there would be 12,000 square feet of warehouse space spread out over two levels.
"In the parts business today, much like most businesses today, you really need a larger concept," Linn said. "The parts business is a manufacturer-direct business. It's going to warehouse-style stores."
By having all that warehouse space, Linn Companies will be able to buy its parts direct from the manufacturer and have them shipped to Hastings on a pallet.
The previous NAPA store in Hastings bought parts as needed from NAPA's warehouse. Those parts were then shipped to Hastings.
"We're cutting out the middle man, more or less," Linn said. "Thereby, you are cutting significant cost, to the tune of a 15 to 20 percent better buying price. It's a substantially better buying price. That will allow us to compete with the other parts stores."
Linn said he estimates 90 to 95 percent of the products his store will sell in Hastings will have been purchased directly from the manufacturer. Linn estimated the store will have $1.5 million worth of inventory.
There was a time Hastings seemed to have auto parts businesses on every block.
That time has passed.
Hastings has just one parts business in operation right now, O'Reilly Auto Parts, located across from Applebee's on Vermillion Street.
"While Hastings may not be a major metropolitan area, it certainly is a large enough community to have more than one automotive parts store," Linn said.
The Linn Companies bought the former Jiffy site in the summer of 2008. They acquired an adjacent lot with a home on it, and then later bought a small parking lot Merchants Bank held.
They put the three parcels together into one big lot they thought could be redeveloped.
All along, the Linn Companies did so with the thought the area could be eligible as a Tax Increment Financing district.
They are now pursuing that option with the city. A public hearing on the TIF aspect of the plan will come in July.
Linn said when the lot was vacant, the city was marketing the area as a potential TIF district, and he said the city signed an agreement with his company that if Linn Companies were to buy the property, it could be considered as a TIF district.
"Without TIF, we would have never gotten involved with the site," he said. "The economics couldn't have come close to working without it. That's what TIF is intended to do. It's intended to redevelop blighted areas.
"The general public doesn't understand the city isn't forfeiting funds they have. They are sharing revenue they would get only if the development takes place. Without sharing that revenue, the development wouldn't happen.
"It was pretty clear from the fact the site sat vacant for almost 15 years that it wasn't going to be developed without some enticement."
"TIF is a win-win situation," Linn said. "It allows the development to take place. It allows the city to generate additional tax revenue, and it allows the community to have a blighted property improved. Nobody loses in a TIF situation, despite public perception."
In order for the TIF district to be considered, city planner John Hinzman said it needs to pass the "but for" test. That is, in his words: "This development would not happen but for the city's help with TIF."
"Essentially, the market is not conducive to the project continuing without any assistance," Hinzman said. "It sat there vacant for more than 10 years.
The city's economic redevelopment authority member were comfortable that the Jiffy lot meets the necessary requirements, and they passed the matter along to the city council, which recently agreed to hold a public hearing on the matter in July.