Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct a comment from Mayor Dick Moore.
ELKHART — Completion of the long awaited main portion of the Shoppes on Six retail development is now a year away.
City officials and representatives of Thompson Thrift celebrated the beginning of the biggest phase of the shopping center development Wednesday with a ground breaking ceremony.
Several stores near the front of the development are already in operation and construction of a series of stores further south of C.R. 6 will now begin.
The upcoming phase will focus mostly on one large string of stores that will encompass 78,000 square feet of space. Major tenants will include ROSS Dress for Less, PetSmart and Shoe Carnvival.
He said the project is now 70 percent leased up and that they hope to have 90 percent of the available space locked up by the time it opens, said Ashlee Boyd, senior vice president of Thompson Thrift Development.
The project includes $3 million investment from the city and $15 million from Thompson Thrift.
The city’s share is being repaid through tax increment finance revenues and Mayor Dick Moore made it a point to stress that money from the city’s general fund was not used in the project.
Moore applauded the work of Thompson Thrift in bringing the biggest major retail development in 20 years.
Moore said the development will, among other things, improve shopping choices, spur more development and will enhance the area’s aesthetics.
“This is the northern front door to our community,” Moore said. “This development will greatly enhance the first impressions people have of this community.”
The development will include a connector road and traffic light.
Boyd said they are working to secure commitments for the corner lots along C.R. 6.
Plans for the retail development were announced in 2012 but progress slowed in part because it took longer to line up tenants.
“We’ve had a lot of setbacks along the way,” Boyd said. “There were a lot of opportunities where either us or the city could have said, ’let’s throw in the towel,’ but we stayed diligent and persistent and it got us where we are today. Better late than never.”