Developable land in Battlefield that has sat vacant for years should have a notable first occupant next year, when Russell Cellular Inc. moves into its new $8 million headquarters as planned.
The Verizon wireless retailer announced plans last month for a 40,000-square-foot building on the site where Wilson’s Creek Marketplace never materialized. At the northwest corner of West Bypass and Republic Road, developer Larino Properties LLC failed to secure anchor tenants, namely home-improvement store Menards. The 32-acre site was auctioned off in 2013 to cover a tax lien, according to Springfield Business Journal archives.
But five years later, Russell Cellular, already with its headquarters in Battlefield, is ready to move forward with a construction project – a decision officials say has been years in the making.
“We started to feel the effects of growth at our current office around late 2014, early 2015,” said Nathan Mindeman, Russell Cellular’s vice president of sales operations.
The company occupies 9,000 square feet at 5624 S. State Highway FF, which it has called home since 2008.
To address growing pains, a second property in Battlefield at Weaver Road and Highway FF was leased for an undisclosed amount in early 2016, he said. The roughly 5,000-square-foot space is used for 60 percent storage and 40 percent office space.
But even that addition didn’t turn out to be enough, Mindeman said, as the company rented out space in Chesterfield Village earlier this year for five more offices.
“We’ve essentially got all our teams in approximately 15,000 square feet currently,” he said.
The new headquarters designed by H Design Group LLC will almost triple the size of the company’s total square footage and centralize human resources, payroll, inventory and information technology.
Russell Cellular has grown sales 40 percent the last three years to $318.3 million in 2017.
Although it has infrastructure in place, such as curbs, guttering and streetlights, the development has had little activity prior to Russell Cellular buying 4.7 acres from Rogers & Baldwin Development LLC. According to Missouri secretary of state records, Scott Tillman is listed as an organizer of Rogers & Baldwin Development. Paul Tillman, who works with his dad Scott at Tillman Redevelopment LLC, said his company only has one lot remaining of the two it owned in the development. He was unaware who owned the other lots, and said he’s not involved in the property’s development.
Battlefield City Administrator Frank Schoneboom said he expects Russell Cellular’s move would spur additional development, though he’s not familiar with any other prospects. While he wasn’t working for Battlefield when Larino Properties’ development failed in 2013, Schoneboom said he became familiar with its history when he started in his position in 2016.
Schoneboom said prior to the retailer’s new headquarters announcement in June, Jeff Russell, CEO and owner of the company, met with him at Battlefield City Hall. The meeting was facilitated by Danny Perches, business assistance coordinator with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, and it left Schoneboom confident about the company’s commitment.
“Of course, I was extremely positive about it. We wanted to retain that business in the community,” Schoneboom said.
“With economic development, I’ve always said people get fired up about new things, but just as important is the businesses you retain and grow,” he continued.
Russell Cellular plans to add 135 jobs in Battlefield over the next five years. The company’s local employee count is currently at 85, Mindeman said.
“The way we have it designed, we should be able to grow quite a bit in there,” Mindeman said, adding the open-space design will allow areas such as meeting and training rooms to be converted to offices as needed. “We’re trying to build in flexibility from the beginning.”
Noting many of the employees and executives working locally for the company reside in the Battlefield area, Mindeman said executives wanted to find a way to stay close to home.
“We looked at existing facilities in Springfield, and certainly considered leasing,” he said. “But from a convenience standpoint and land availability standpoint, it was sure nice to be able to stay in Battlefield.”
Mindeman said the large amount of space available at the site and the already developed infrastructure along with its quick access to James River Freeway were all attractions to the property. He said company officials were not aware of any other plans in the development.
For Russell Cellular, the $8 million price tag includes land purchase and construction, he said, and the company expects to occupy the building by the fourth quarter next year. A general contractor likely will be selected in a few weeks, Mindeman said.
Schonenboom considers Russell Cellular’s commitment to the community as a reflection of the city’s growth, having increased in population 8 percent to 6,050 in 2016 from 5,590 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. He said the company’s positive experience in Battlefield has the potential to influence others to give the town a look.
“I think that if Russell Cellular has an excellent experience in building their facility here, they’ll talk,” he said. “Word of mouth is almost as good as anything else.”
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