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Ford building up plans for Ky. 80/Ky. 914 development

Mar. 28—When the public found out about Matt Ford's potential commercial development project, they had ideas for what they wanted to see there. And Ford is interested in hearing about them all.

Those ideas include seeing a Sam's Club, Menards, Macy's, Target or — Ford's personal favorite — Camping World.

He said he is also open to other big name ideas.

"If you know somebody at one of these places and you want to bring them in, help me out," Ford said, meaning he'd love to hear from anyone who has connections to any of the big stores. "I think a Camping World would be great. Think about coming to Lake Cumberland. Why do we not have something similar to that? It somewhat bumfuzzles me that we don't have some of these things that we're discussing. Why do we not have them in Somerset already?"

Of course, the project is large enough for Ford to entertain other ideas as well. Should someone have ideas for a hotel or a sit-down restaurant, he wants to hear those too, he said.

If you're thinking about a particular big-name store, there's a chance that Ford's put out some feelers already.

"I've only been told no by one group, and that's Costco. (They're) a very nice group of people. They actually sent me on to a couple of other (groups) and gave me some phone numbers. But our demographics — we're not going to have enough people to carry a Costco for several years," he said.

Ford's new development, situated in the corner of East Ky. 80 and Ky. 914, is planned to be a 120-acre complex that would have room for three big box/anchor stores as well as some smaller ones in a strip mall area. There are also plans for more than 200 apartments that would sit on top of the smaller shops, similar to the way Fritz Farm in Lexington is set up.

The location was chosen strategically. While Ford said he has been planning something like this for around seven years, it was around four years ago that the heirs of Hazel Ledford sold him the property.

"I feel blessed to have been where I was, at the right time at the right place," he said about buying the property. "I've been able to bring a partner in that, once again, I think it was just a blessing, maybe God's providence, that walked in at the right time at the right place again. I feel like this (development) is something our community needs."

He notes that it feels like the perfect place to put such a development due to I-75's proximity.

"It's the first stop if you're going to Russell Springs, or you're going to Monticello, or Albany, or Lee's Ford Marina. You're going to have to pass this intersection. You can't get past this intersection if you're coming off of Interstate 75."

And for those coming in from other directions, there's one thing Ky. 914 has going for it — it's not U.S. 27.

"I love U.S. 27. I've sold a lot of U.S. 27 properties, but one nice thing about this for our locals is (being able to) get on the bypass and beat all the lights," Ford said. "One of the things this offers is that it has great viability, but you're not going to stop at 23 stoplights."

He said he has been working with KYTC District 8 Chief District Engineer James Jones to plan two entrances to the development, one coming from East Ky. 80 and one coming from Ky. 914.

He also gave credit to Doug Gooch for working on the engineering for the project, and for Deco Architects for designing the conceptual drawings.

Ford doesn't have an exact timeline for when the project will truly be underway. Currently, dirt is being moved and blasting being done to level the area, and Ford said that "in commercial real estate, you can't get anxious. You've just got to make things happen."

He added, "I hope late summer/early fall we'll actually be able to start to move on some lots. I've gots some contracts on a lot or two. How long does it take to develop the whole thing? I might be working on this for the next decade. It's not something that's going to happen overnight, but you'll see steady progress."

Will such a large-scale project see success? As has been noted, at least one big-name store has opted out due to the area's population size.

Ford said he is an optimist at heart, and such a project would fill many of the needs that the county is seeing right now.

"Do we need housing? Yeah. So, will a mixed-use (development) work? You better believe it. Do we need more shopping? Do we need competition against some of the big boxes right now? You better believe it. Do we need better service at some of these big boxes? You know what the best thing to drive competition (is)? Competition is going to make everybody's services get better. There's so many things that this development can do for our community. It's a huge win."

He also said he's studied the surrounding demographics, and many people from surrounding counties — McCreary, Wayne, Russell, Rockcastle and Laurel — come to Pulaski just to shop.

Brining this development to the eastern part of Somerset would help bring opportunities to that side of the county, he said.

"It's a big dream to make this happen," he admitted. "I heard someone say the other night in the (Somerset City Council) meeting, 'If it comes.' Well, we're not guessing about it coming. ... I really believe that it could be that something the everybody in town could be proud of."

Carla Slavey can be reached at cslavey@somerset-kentucky.com