Tea marks record building year as interest from new businesses keeps growing

May 28, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by the Lincoln County Economic Development Association.

When Leslie Dolby decided to become a boutique owner earlier this year, deciding where to locate wasn’t difficult.

Dolby lives a few miles north of Tea. Her kids go to school in the Tea district. Her church is in Tea. And so it just felt right that her business should be too.

“We already felt a part of the community,” she said. “It just made sense to open in a smaller town that felt like home.”

Since she opened DART Boutique in March in the Woodridge Mall retail center at 615 E. Brian St., her instinct seems to have proven correct.

Store hours have expanded to become daily, and Dolby is adding a small selection of kids’ clothing in response to demand from the community.

Her business model includes women’s clothing in sizes small through 3X, along with shoes and accessories. The boutique also has a fun vibe with a lounge that includes snacks, beverages, games and a TV, as well as a place for kids to play.

“Things have been going very well, and the feedback from the community has been very positive,” Dolby said. “We have had people tell us they are excited to have a new, fun business in Tea. And that has been encouraging to hear.”

DART Boutique is one of a growing number of businesses choosing to expand in the fast-growing Lincoln County community.

“Plans have been submitted for small retail, office complexes, an office building, and we’ve got an O’Reilly Auto Parts that will start digging here soon,” said Kevin Nissen, city planning and zoning official.

Dollar General opened in Tea last fall, and Fareway recently remodeled and moved into the former Sunshine Foods store.

All the activity, combined with construction for the new Venture Elementary, led to a record building permit year in 2018 totaling $27.2 million.

New residential construction also set a record, approaching $6.3 million in permits.

“It’s been pretty spectacular,” city administrator Dan Zulkosky said, adding the town’s population grows by 8 percent annually. Tea expects the 2020 census will show about 6,000 people, he said.

“It’s been amazing. And they’re looking for property to build another school in two years. They’re talking about doing an addition onto the high school. So it’s been fantastic.”

A recent $8.7 million federal grant will allow the community to expand 271st Street, also known as County Road 106, which prompted a new wave of interest in the city.

“Since that time, we’ve had a tremendous amount of calls from people interested, wanting to know what they need to do to get on that thorough-way into the city,” Zulkosky said. “A couple restaurants have called. I’m working with two right now to figure out what they need.”

Tea also experienced an unprecedented year of annexations in 2018, adding almost 400 acres.

“We were at a point last year where we were running out of residential lots, and even our commercial inventory was limited for land to build on,” Nissen said. “And in one year, we had a huge amount of annexations. We’re sitting good for the next 20 years.”

About half of the annexation amount came from one development: A 200-acre parcel known as Bakker Landing goes from 85th Street to County Road 106 between Sundowner Avenue and Interstate 29.

It’s owned by Sundowner Investments Group, led by Dan Lemme and being marketed by Harr & Lemme Commercial Real Estate.

“We’ve had a lot of interest,” said Harr & Lemme’s Joel Ingle. “We’ve been very pleased with the phone traffic. We’d like to get some streets built, but we’re getting there.”

Wheel City Auto is moving its headquarters to a 10-acre site on the property, and Morton Buildings also is relocating its offices and facility from across the interstate.

Additional lots are under contract for retail and service uses, as well as a spec building, Ingle said.

Ingle also is talking with convenience stores, quick-service restaurants and family-style restaurants.

“And we’ve had a couple preliminary conversations with hotel developers who are pretty keen on the site,” he said.

“We’re very pleased with the progress. It’s the location and the idea of having an 85th Street interchange and a Tea interchange and great interstate exposure.”

The interchange project is moving forward and is about six months into an environmental study, he said. It could wrap up about a year from now, with construction following in 2021.

“There are so many things planned in that area, a lot of roadway improvements, and everything feels new and exciting when you start to look at the map,” Ingle said.

“It feels like it’s the right place at the right time for a lot of people.”

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Tea marks record building year as interest from new businesses keeps growing

“It’s pretty spectacular.” Tea is coming off a record-breaking year, and the phone at City Hall keeps ringing with businesses interested in coming to town.

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