Knoxville business owner says Urban Outfitters incentives unfair

Knoxville business owner says Urban Outfitters incentives unfair

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"I just have a problem with me or those like me, taxpayers, paying the way for a billion dollar company to locate to a location that could have been inhabited by Disc Exchange," Scott West said. "I just have a problem with me or those like me, taxpayers, paying the way for a billion dollar company to locate to a location that could have been inhabited by Disc Exchange," Scott West said.
The store will be located in the Arnstein building by Market Square. The store will be located in the Arnstein building by Market Square.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Some shoppers say they are excited about the retail chain Urban Outfitters coming to downtown Knoxville, but one business owner says the incentives given to the developer are unfair.

The store will be located in the Arnstein building by Market Square. It's expected to open in spring 2013.

Hannah Williams can't wait to start shopping at Urban Outfitters, which sells men's and women's clothing, household products, furniture, electronics and gifts.

"It's a great store that offers a lot of different things. You have furniture and clothing, fun different things, and I think it's going to be a great addition to the downtown area," Hannah Williams said.

City officials say Arnstein Partners will be given a $250,000 incentive. The reasons are to restore the historic Arnstein building and attract a retailer.

The incentive comes from a forgivable loan. Federal dollars are used from the Urban Development Action Grant.

"It goes to the restoration of the overall building, but it is predicated upon recruiting and maintaining this catalytic retailer," said David Dewhirst, a developer with Arnstein Partners.

Dewhirst says Urban Outfitters met this requirement by being a store popular and powerful enough to bring a substantial amount of new business to the area.

"They judge downtown Knoxville to be worthy of investment. Then a lot of smaller retailers will want to be near them and the traffic they create," Dewhirst said.

But Scott West, whose family owns three stores on Market Square, says incentives should be used to help local businesses and keep the character of downtown.

"I don't have a problem with anybody being here that wants to pay their own way," West said. "I just have a problem with me or those like me, taxpayers, paying the way for a billion dollar company to locate to a location that could have been inhabited by Disc Exchange."

Disc Exchange has gone from two locations to just one, which is in South Knoxville. It was the site of a cash mob in March to boost business due to the impact of the Henley Bridge construction project.

One shop manager on the square and some customers say Urban Outfitters will bring even more people to the area and not take business or character away from Market Square.

However, West said it's really hard for local businesses to be successful, especially at the start. He says there are a lot of risks, and he wishes more incentives were available for small businesses.

Urban Outfitters will add 56 jobs to the area.

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