Ask folks what they would like to see in the old Kroger building and you will get a variety of answers. The ones I have heard the most are a movie theatre, a bowling alley, a Home Depot, a department store and, my personal favorite, anything. After hearing the different opinions, it is clear that the number one thing on the minds of most when discussing new businesses in Richmond Hill is recreation and family activity.
Local builder Wayne Jackson in connection with Heritage Bank is looking to help with some of that.
Two and a half years ago, Wayne brought roughly 10 acres off of Hwy 17 between Harris Trail and the I-95 interchange. It was his intention to create Jackson Court – a commercial development featuring a family oriented activity area. While spending time with his own family in Savannah, Wayne discovered Laser Tag. He researched the idea further and thought that it would be a good fit for Richmond Hill. He started working on the project with Woodlands Bank. The Laser Tag meetings went great. The bank meetings did not and the project hit a roadblock.
Now, Wayne says everything is back on track and he is excited. "I am so passionate about this project and its betterment of the community," said Wayne. "It provides fun for family outings, a destination for local church groups, facilities for birthday parties and little league celebrations. It is just so exciting."
Wayne also mentioned he was not the only party happy to see the project back on track. "Once the Heritage Bank realized this was a family friendly environment and provided activities for the children, they were on board," Wayne said. He spoke highly of the new relationship saying that, "We both realize this is something we have needed in this area for a long time." Wayne added that Heritage Bank "has proven that they are community focused and dedicated to our kids."
He also mentioned that the City of Richmond Hill has been helpful. "The City has been very supportive," Wayne said. "Planning and Zoning, Mayor Davis and Mike Melton have been excited to see something happen for the kids."
The project, for Wayne, centers on the recreational area. While Jackson Court will have space available for retail locations and eateries, Wayne insists that the family fun facilities are priority one. Along with the Laser Tag, Wayne has looked into including inflatable play areas, commonly known as "bounce arounds," and WhirlyBall. Since I have never heard of WhirlyBall, I looked it up. According to their website, it "combines lacrosse, hockey and basketball with bumper cars."
According to Wayne, we will be able to see some progress very soon. The current plan is to break ground in 30 days. The project should take about 9 months to complete and Wayne is looking to have it open by next summer.
Development and growth in Richmond Hill has been a hot button issue for quite some time. The last City Council election revolved around it. More recently, the discussion has turned to the empty commercial spaces, the ongoing development of new commercial construction and the perceived excess of some industries. But, there is a good deal of truth to the lack of options for entertainment. I would love to hear what you think about it.