The Greensboro City Council approved the vacant big box economic incentive grant and loan for the Freeman Mill Square shopping center at the corner of Freeman Mill Road and Florida Street on Tuesday, June 16.
The $250,000 grant and $500,000 loan is to facilitate the opening of a Piggly Wiggly grocery store at Freeman Square and was approved despite the fact that the city guidelines for a vacant big box store incentive were not met.
The city does not have the required second lien on the property and during the meeting one of the investors, Shahzad Akbar, requested that his home be removed as collateral. Akbar said he would gladly put up other property as collateral, and nobody on the City Council questioned why his home had been listed as collateral, or why the change was being requested at the last possible minute, before the economic development grant and loan was approved.
The 14,000-square-foot store also does not meet the minimum square footage guideline for a vacant big box incentive, which is 25,000 square feet.
The most telling remark about the grant and loan was made by Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann long after the incentive had been approved, when discussing the $250,000 economic incentive grant for businesses damaged by vandalism and looting at the end of May, a grant that Councilmember Sharon Hightower vehemently opposed and voted against.
Hoffmann was speaking about the importance of the downtown to the City of Greensboro and after being interrupted by Hightower said, “Sharon, I voted for the big box deal tonight with no questions, and you know I could have asked well what’s going to make this situation different from the investment we made in Phillips Avenue a few years ago, which was a total failure for whatever combination of reasons, but I didn’t ask that.”
Hightower, who regularly interrupts other councilmembers, interrupted again to say, “You should have asked that.”