New Shopping Center Planned for Owensboro, Ky.

Aug. 5--Bob Wimsatt will break ground next week on Gateway Plaza, a $5 million to $6 million development on U.S. 60 West just east of Industrial Drive.

It will be the first new shopping center on Owensboro's west side in a dozen years.

Wimsatt said Friday that he already has commitments from a national fast-food chain and a national retailer for two of the five buildings he's planning for the 50,000-square-foot strip center.

Buildings will range from 5,000 to 10,000 square feet, he said.

Wimsatt expects to be able to announce the names of the first stores soon.

There's room in the 5.2-acre development for one or more additional stores when the first phase fills up, he said.

The center is just south of one section of Audubon Acres and just west of the point where U.S. 60 West divides into Second and Fourth streets.

"This section of U.S. 60 West from Carter Road to Industrial Drive has the highest traffic count on the west side," Wimsatt said. "We get around 20,000 vehicles a day through here from the subdivisions and the plants on Industrial Drive."

It's a little over five miles from Gateway Plaza to the south Frederica Street shopping and dining district and a little over nine miles to the Kentucky 54 shopping district.

"I grew up on this end of town," Wimsatt said. "I still live on this end of town. There's been a lot of residential development over here in the last few years. Commercial has to follow."

Gary Noffsinger, executive director of the Owensboro Metropolitan Planning Commission, said there hasn't been much commercial activity on the city's west side in recent years.

And he said he hasn't heard of plans for any more shopping centers on that side of town.

But David Appleby of Massie-Clarke Development Co. says he's seen increased interest in the U.S. 60 West corridor.

"We have 13 acres of commercial property near the post office and Sleep Inn," he said. "And another 11 acres just west of Carter Road. I'm talking to some people now about both of those locations."

Dollar General Store opened a new location at 4241 Benttree Drive -- just off U.S. 60 West -- last year.

"They're meeting their projections for the store," Appleby said. "Commercial is coming to this side of town."

Massie-Clarke's Starlite Center on West Parrish Avenue opened in 1994 with a new Kroger store. It was the last shopping center built on that side of town.

A new strip center -- Starlite Kroger Center -- is under construction just west of the Kroger store. But it's considered another phase of the Starlite Center development.

Massie-Clarke also has plans eventually for a seven-acre Airpark Shopping Center on Carter Road between Tamarack Road and Southtown Boulevard.

Wimsatt, an engineer with a master of business administration degree, began his career with Texas Gas Transmission and left to become a consultant. About 12 years ago, he began developing residential property.

"I don't build houses," he said. "I just develop the land. But I've developed several hundred lots in several subdivisions. This is my first shopping center."

Wimsatt said he bought the property in 1997 at an auction by Brescia University. William H. Thompson, the founder of Thompson Homes, had donated the property to Brescia a decade or so earlier.

"People have been asking me for years what I was going to do with it," he said. "I've just been waiting for the right time to develop it."

Construction should begin in the fall and be completed next spring, Wimsatt said.

"But there may be some (retailers) who want to push the opening up. We could see something before spring."