Polk Motel property development remains at a standstill
The planned hotel and retail project at Columbia’s former Polk Motel site remains in limbo, following lead developer indictment on Mississippi wire fraud charges last year.
In September 2020.
The well-known developer and businessman, who has done works and renovations for Jackson’s Lane College, has already argued his innocence.
When he spoke to The Jackson Sun last year, Hunt’s attorney advised him not to talk about the charges, but he previously said “all I did was pay a fee. commission “via a professional service contract for projects.
The Daily Herald contacted Hunt for this story several times but did not receive a response.
The current suspension of the project follows months of delay, leading up to Hunt’s indictment and a controversy with the local county commission, involving a violation of improper disposal of brush and other material on the site.
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Columbia cuts ties with the developer
In the wake of last year’s indictment, Columbia’s Industrial Development Board struck down the Hunt’s Tax Increase Funding Agreement, or TIF.
The deal with the city allowed him to obtain TIF credits, thereby reducing his tax payable on the project, if he had made at least $ 18.5 million in capital expenditures and had advanced construction of the project. before December 31, 2020.
“The TIFF deal states that the developer had to be done by January 1, 2021 for a hotel,” said Tony Massey, general manager of Columbia. ” This does not happen. Following legal advice, we sent a letter to Mr. Hunt to let him know that the deal has been canceled. This agreement is therefore no longer in force. There are a lot of rumors going around but nothing concrete. This is where it is. The TIFF deal has been canceled. “
Massey said the city had not had any contact with Hunt about the property.
“Mr. Hunt ended up in legal hot water and that concerns us all,” Massey said. “We haven’t had any communication with David Hunt. We severed all ties with him and because of his legal issues, and we were advised not to contact him. “
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The site remains untapped
More than six months after the deal ended, the ground remains intact and the building materials remain intact and motionless for months.
Hunt reached a $ 5 million deal on the property in January 2019 with Clay Neal of Columbia, of JRN, Inc., the former owner of the 14-acre site.
He shared plans to build a Courtyard by Marriott hotel, convention center and shopping mall at the intersection of Bear Creek Pike and Nashville Highway.
Upon closing, Hunt said the hotel and conference center would be upgraded with a 20,000 square foot shopping center and four restaurants.
He told the Daily Herald that he met Neal through former Columbia Mayor Dean Dickey. He first noticed the intersection as he moved his son from an apartment in Spring Hill to a house in Columbia.
Neal’s father, John R. Neal, purchased the Polk Motel property in 1985 or 1986. Over the years, the property has housed many businesses including Burger Chef, Phillips 66 gas station and Colonial Inn.
Following the demolition of the motel and a shopping center also located on the property, the site is currently valued at $ 3,395,000, according to records held by the Maury County property appraiser.
Hunt also pledged the mall would be built within six months, Hunt said, with a restaurant row opening in June or July.
The hotel was due to be completed in June 2020.
Now the site remains flat after Hunt demolishes the vacant Polk Motel and several other businesses on the lot.
“This is a superb property and one of the most valuable commercial real estate in the city,” Massey said. “There’s a lot we could do with that now depending on where he’s located. It’s a concern that he’s related. We hope he sells the property or does something else with the property, but there was nothing specific. There is a feeling in the community that if he sold the property, maybe it would be better for everyone. ”
Also slated for demolition, the Crown Liquors store remains open near the corner of Nashville Highway and Bear Creek Pike after previously planning to reopen on the site in a new building.
The owners of the store declined to comment for this story.
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Charges against Hunt
Hunt and two other contractors named in the Mississippi case are said to have raised more than $ 650,000 from the State of Mississippi, including federal funds provided by the US Department of Education in Mississippi.
The Clarion Ledger reported in September 2020 that Cerissa Neal, the former director of the Office of Educator Quality in the Mississippi Department of Education, conspired with Hunt and others to defraud the state and government. federal government by rigging offers, fake quotes and modified purchases. orders, for their benefit from 2013 to 2016.
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Hunt faces one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and seven counts of wire fraud.
Neal has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Lisa Ross of Jackson, Mississippi, said the allegations were false, according to the 2020 report.
Neal reportedly used his position in the Mississippi Department of Education to split contract requests from one contract into several smaller contracts to avoid hitting the $ 50,000 threshold for some contracts and 100,000. $ for others, which would trigger a formal and competitive bidding process. Then she allegedly pushed to accept offers from the companies of the three co-conspirators in Memphis and Jackson, Tennessee.
They are also accused of inflating the prices of Mississippi Department of Education contracts and purchases and pointing them at conspirators and their businesses.
A grand jury indicted Neal, Kyles, Hunt and Martin in February 2020 and arrest warrants were issued shortly thereafter. The four suspects were not arrested until October 2020.
Hunt said he paid a commission through a professional service contract with Kyles.
Contact Mike Christen at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @MikeChristenCDH.