Land being developed for commercial use on South U.S. 27 in front of Oakwood had a bright future that has been put “on hold” by the coronavirus situation, according to developer Brook Ping.

“Since all this happened, everything’s been sitting still.”

For a period of time, the landscape of U.S. 27 was changing in a hurry. The 2017 purchase of surplus property from the state — 24 acres,  with 1,400 feet of frontage along six-lane U.S. 27, is located on the west side of the highway, immediately south of Lowe’s and Wal-Mart, in front of New Vista Oakwood — offered lots of promise for Somerset-based corporation Makena Development LLC, and owners Brook Ping, Cory Ikerd and Shane Weddle. The opening of major chain restaurants like Chili’s and Popeye’s signaled the start of something big in that spot.

But as Ping noted in the quote above, 2020’s still-unfolding COVID-19 situation has put a halt to things.

“It’s put a lot of things on hold — a lot of things that were in the works that were really put on hold,” said Ping. “It’s like everybody is sitting there until they see some finality (to the virus situation).”

Indeed, as mandates from state governments that change seemingly week-to-week affect how businesses are able to operate, and the state of the economy in a precarious place, businesses aren’t as interested in expanding into new markets, instead focusing on survival mode for the locations they already have.

Now, the Makena Development sits, waiting for most of its empty lot to be filled. Chili’s and Popeye’s continue to do business, but it’s likely there might have been more around them in the works if not for COVID-19’s economic ramifications.

“I do have a couple of deals pending that are just stuck on pending,” said Ping. “Nobody’s going to pull the trigger until they see some progress. It makes it difficult. You try to plan for things like that, but it’s difficult, planning for the unknown.”

Ping compared it to the development of the Stonegate Centre, where the Kroger Marketplace is located.

“We went through an economic downturn just when the project started,” said Ping. “It took an extra five years to get off the ground.”

Ping has since sold off his interests in that property and has been working on the Makena Development. He’s still optimistic about its future — but in the business world, the future right now is as uncertain as ever.

“I’d like to think so,” he said when asked if he believes the interest in developing will be there. “It just one of those things where it takes time and being patient.”

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