Elk Run Inn owners broadcast disapproval of proposed development
Randy and Cindy Looper are upset about recent events in an ongoing development deal they think will hurt their business, and they want to take their message to the people.
From now on, Randy said, the couple plans to park their truck directly across from the City Market exit onto Pershing Street with signs denouncing the grocery store's expansion as currently planned.
"It will be there whenever I'm not using it," Randy said.
The couple owns the Elk Run Inn, located at the corner of Ranney Street and Victory Way.
For the past few years, an outside developer named Four Hands Craig LLC has pursued a deal to acquire the property that now houses the Post Office, located on Pershing Street behind the Loopers' hotel, and build a new City Market there.
City Market doesn't bother the Loopers, Cindy said.
"It's not the City Market that's the problem," she said. "It's the shopettes that are the problem. Those will box us in."
Along with the Post Office building, Dallas-based firm Rainier Sunwest Portfolio I owns the empty lot on the corner of Pershing and Victory, next to the Elk Run Inn.
Cindy said Four Hands plans to build a small shopping center on that corner, which essentially would "land-lock" her business and limit it to a small access off the highway.
The Loopers were in talks to sell their property to Four Hands, but negotiations fell through after the Loopers thought the offer was too low.
Since then, the corner lot has provoked a dispute between the Loopers and Rainier, which culminated last week when Rainier forced the DeVries Farm Market off its property.
Bill DeVries said he has used the corner of Pershing and Victory to stage the DeVries Farm Market for the past 20 years.
That will end as of this week, DeVries said, because a Rainier representative told one of his employees last week the market would not be allowed on the corner lot anymore.
DeVries said he's tried several times to call Rainier back and offer to pay to lease the space through this year, but he has never gotten a response.
The Rainier representative did not return phone messages from the Daily Press by press time.
Rainier's motivation seems obvious to DeVries, he said.
"They're not building anything now, near as I can tell," DeVries said. "They made us move out of there because - as I say, it's just me and my opinion - they don't want anybody that helps patronize that hotel to be there.
"I got caught in the crossfire."
Starting Wednesday, the Farm Market will be in the Centennial Mall parking lot between Checker Auto Parts and Village Inn.
DeVries said he didn't have a contract for the corner lot, and he paid his lease in produce. When he negotiated a spot at the mall, however, he made sure to get it in writing, and he has the space secured through late October.
Cindy said the way Rainier dealt with DeVries is typical and part of the reason they decided to put up signs warning the community.
"They're not even building anything yet," she said. "Their purpose is to make it difficult for us. I guess I'm just returning the favor."
Negotiations between the couple and Rainier and Four Hands are stagnant for now, Cindy said.
Outside of selling the property, the two sides also have been at odds concerning a three-foot encroachment the Elk Run Inn makes onto Rainier's property.
The Loopers have said they could take the issue to court if anyone tries to make them demolish part of their hotel, which has been there for about 60 years.
Rainier offered to deed the three feet over to the Loopers if they agreed to publicly support whatever development is eventually built, Cindy said, but she refused.
"I'm not going to give them a carte blanche offer to support anything," Cindy said. "What if it's a strip club?"
Phil Mann, managing member of Four Hands Craig, said he had no issue with the Loopers expressing themselves.
"I support their right to express their opinion; that's what the public process is for," he said. "I firmly believe that."
Although negotiations seem to have broken down, the issue is far from quiet.
On Monday, the Loopers' sign had a hand-written message that read, "City Market expansion : at what price?"
The sign was taken down Monday afternoon when it started to rain, but the Loopers said that is only the beginning.
They already have asked Identity Graphics to crate three permanent magnetic signs they can attach to the truck day and night, rain or shine.
Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or email@example.com.