Funding an issue for new ice cream shop

The deadline to begin construction on a new ice cream shop in downtown Greenwood is nearing, and the owner is concerned about whether he will be able to make the date.

John Cassin, who owns Mrs. Curl Ice Cream Shop, reached an agreement with the city last year to buy the land needed to construct a new location that would be open year-round with indoor seating at Main and Meridian streets. But since then, he has not been able to get a loan to pay for the new building, he said.

He initially estimated that the new building would cost no more than $450,000, but that cost rose to about $950,000, once actual designs of the building were complete and other costs, such as infrastructure work and utilities, were factored in as well, Cassin said. The loan would need to cover nearly all of the project costs, Cassin said. Two banks offered loans, but only enough to cover about half. Cassin is working with a third bank now, but doesn’t think the result is going to be any different, he said.

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Under his agreement with the city to buy just under a half-acre at the southeast corner of Main and Meridian streets, Cassin had one year to close on the property and begin construction. Otherwise, the land will remain under the ownership of the city, and officials would then look at other uses.

But buying the property and beginning construction won’t be possible without a loan, Cassin said.

Mrs. Curl has served patrons at its site on Meridian Street, south of Main Street, for more than five decades. City officials had hoped that a year-round location would assist with the city’s long-term plans to redevelop the area and bring more people downtown.

“We were very optimistic that it was going to happen,” said Brent Tilson, president of the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission.

If the Mrs. Curl project isn’t an option, the redevelopment commission hasn’t determined what to do with the property, Tilson said. One option when the city first purchased the property was to use the space for parking, he said.

“There is a need for parking,” Tilson said. “With the park system being remodeled, that will bring in more traffic.”

The city still owns the land, and will continue to own it if Cassin doesn’t close on the property by October. As of now, no future plans are set for the land, Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said.

“Anything could be possible,” Myers said. “It would be a matter of what the redevelopment commission and my office decides would be a good use for that property.”

The redevelopment commission spent $163,500 in 2016 to purchase houses at 1 and 21 E. Main St. The city then spent $22,000 to demolish the homes. The initial plan was to use the land to add a turn lane to the intersection, widen sidewalks along Meridian and Main streets, and build a public parking lot. After the city began negotiations to purchase the properties, Cassin proposed using the land for an ice cream shop just north of where Mrs. Curl opened more than half-century ago on Meridian Street.

The plan to add the parking lot was cut to make room for the Mrs. Curl project, but work to add the sidewalks, turn lane and new traffic lights wrapped up earlier this year.

In September, the redevelopment commission voted 3-2 in favor of selling the two properties to Cassin and two business partners for $41,000. The board had solicited bids to sell the property to a developer for the amount it has been appraised at — $35,000 — for use as a ice cream shop or a similar business. Cassin made the only bid for the property.