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Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 10, 2005

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By Dennis Palmer

After a year of making lease payments on an empty building, the city council will vote Monday night on a plan to lease the old Wal-Mart building at Interstate Plaza to a developer in Albertville who says he has immediate plans to locate a movie theater, restaurant and major retailer in the building.

Although he could not name the major retailer due to ongoing negotiations, the developer, Mike Dendy, says the major retailer will occupy 38,000 square feet of the 58,000 square-foot building and that he hopes to have the movie theater and restaurant deal worked out in "the next three weeks."

Dendy said this is not the first project of this sort he's worked, and that he's done similar projects in Brewton, Atmore, Jasper and Arab.

The city, which assumed the lease on the building as part of an agreement to lure a Wal-Mart Supercenter to town, has been paying nearly $18,000 per month to Wal-Mart. The city's lease has 13 years remaining on it. The deal includes Dendy assuming the lease at the end of the city's term.

Mayor Dexter McLendon said the city's deal with Dendy, which he said calls for deferred lease payments the first three years and a $1 sir charge on movie tickets to help Dendy fund the expected $2 million cost to remodel the building, is a good deal for the city and that he's confident the plan will work. The remainder of the lease agreement will be revealed at Monday's city council meeting.

"Our whole motivation in structuring this deal is to get a movie theater and not have an empty Wal-Mart building out there on the Interstate," McLendon said. "I've talked to several developers and this developer has experience with Wal-Mart, and he has contacts with people who can get tenants for this building. I've checked him out thoroughly, and I'm very confident he'll be able to make this happen. I also expect that within the third year the businesses he puts in there will be able to generate over $150,000 in sales tax revenue."

Due to ongoing negotiations Dendy said he could not reveal specifics of the movie theater deal, but said "rumor has it the theater will have five or six screens." He also said the restaurant will be a Mexican restaurant called Los Arcos, which has six locations in the south.

"I think it's a wonderful deal for myself, the city and the tenants because based on what I know the (large) tenant will generate in sales tax it will come back to the city in more ways than one," Dendy said. "The retailers at other locations where we've done this said they can't keep enough inventory in their stores and that so far they've exceeded what they thought they would do in sales."

In the end, McLendon said this deal will give local people another reason to spend their money at home.

"This will give our young people something to do on the weekends and it's an activity they won't have to drive back and forth (to Montgomery) to do," he said. "Our citizens will have a better quality of life and they won't have to go elsewhere and spend their money."

Pending council approval, Dendy said he would immediately begin a $700,000 remodel of the building for the large retailer, which would take about 10 weeks.

"If all goes well, we're going to try to have them open before Thanksgiving."