PALESTINE MALL

Around 56,000 square feet of the mall was affected by water damage, due to a malfunction in the mall’s fire suppression equipment and pipes bursting in the wall of the VA Clinic. 

The city of Palestine is one step closer in selling the Palestine Mall to the Christian Company.

The city council approved a sixth amendment to the purchase and sale agreement between the city, the Palestine Economic Development Corporation and the Christian Company during the council’s regularly scheduled bi-monthly on Monday, May 10.

Contract negotiations between the city, PEDC and the Christian Company began in 2019.

The Christian Company has big plans for redevelopment of the property. There are several moving pieces to this project, and while it is taking more time than anyone would like, the developer has had interest from national retailers.

According to Lisa Denton, Palestine's new Economic Development Corporation executive, one big setback in the sale was water damage to the mall during the winter snow and ice storms. Around 56,000 square feet of the mall was affected by water damage, due to a malfunction in the mall’s fire suppression equipment and pipes bursting in the wall of the VA Clinic. At one point there were 10 inches of water standing in the Pain Clinic building that began to seep under the wall into Burke’s. The VA Clinic was the only occupied area with significant damage.

To keep the VA Clinic operational, work crews created a containment area, working on one half of the damaged clinic, while allowing the other side to remain operational. The clinic was then moved into the repaired area while the other side was repaired.

A certified turn-key recovery team was brought in through Texas Municipal League to fix the damages, including special asbestos removal.

The inspection period for the sale of the mall ends this month. The city has 30 days to get everything lined out for the sale close. Denton said June 17 is the target close date.

All mall repairs are expected to be complete by early June.

The Palestine Library will stay where it is for now. Denton said the Christian Company is willing to work with the city while they make a plan for the future of the library.

Denton will celebrate her one year anniversary in her new role with the city of Palestine on May 22.

In her first year, 206 jobs have been created or retained and the city has added $129, 227,000 in capital investment in Palestine and Anderson County.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Denton negotiated several big projects that include housing and retail development.

In a recent interview, Denton shared updates on retail recruitments and expansions.

• SCC Development has completed pad work on Starbucks, Panda Express and Tidal Wave Car Wash. Foundations and framing are now in process. SCC Development will also add an additional full service restaurant to this complex. The well-known East Texas restaurant has not been officially announced by the development company. This project has a total capital investment of $6,893,000, without the additional restaurant, and is expected to create over 40 new jobs. Denton reports that Starbucks should be open by September.

• The Overlook Lifestyle Apartment Homes broke ground April 22 on its 15 acres of property on E. Loop 256, to construct 152 new apartment units in phase I. This portion of the project is expected to have a capital investment of $13,000,000. Phase 2 is expected to bring an additional 40 units to the complex.

• Tahwahkaro Distilling Company is now officially housed in the Coors facility at 100 N. Church St. Due to construction delays, they have pushed their opening date to July. The company plans to invest $4,200,000 and create 13 jobs, over a five-year period. This project has added Palestine to the Texas Whiskey Trail.

• Fikes Wholesale Inc. just began construction on the new CEFCO Travel Center at Tile Factory Road and West Oak St. The project was delayed due to an Atmos gas line needing to be relocated. This project will also include a Huddle House Restaurant. Total investment is anticipated to be $3,750,000.

• Wildwood Development LLC’s construction on the new office facility for the State of Texas Department of Health and Human Services and Child Protective Services in the Willow Creek Business Park is complete. PEDC conveyed 5.599 acres of land to the project. In return, the development will bring $3,100,000 in capital investment, and 50 retained full-time positions, with 26 new full-time positions to be created. The offices will soon relocate from their existing location at 330 E Spring St., Suite B & D.

Prior to coming to Palestine, Denton worked with a commercial retail development advisory firm for the Texas-Oklahoma market, when the coronavirus hit. She realized just how much she missed economic development.

Denton served as executive director of Athens Economic Development Corporation from January 2015 to July 2019. From 2004 to 2014, she worked as the assistant director for Kilgore Economic Development Corporation.

Denton believes it is her experience with a similar-sized community, requiring similar skills for comparable markets, that made her the right fit for Palestine.

A graduate of Texas A&M University’s Texas Engineering & Extension Services, she is certified as an economic development master practitioner, an economic development finance professional, a community and economic developer, and a business and expansion professional.

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