ST. CHARLES — The city of St. Charles will become the site of a new truck stop along Interstate 90.
On Tuesday, the city council unanimously approved the sale of a 6.83-acre lot in the Chattanooga Innovation Park along the north side of I-90 to Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores Inc. for $683,000.
"I am very excited about this new company," said St. Charles Mayor John Schaber. "It is a $14 million-plus project."
The company plans to build a truck stop and travel convenience store at the site, said City Administrator Nick Koverman. That will likely include at least one national fast food chain restaurant within the travel plaza.
Koverman said the 45-50 full-time equivalent positions it will take to run the business would likely become the city’s third-largest employer after the school district and the city itself.
The lot purchased by Love’s is on the south side of the business park closest to Minnesota Highway 74.
"That’s where we were planning the hotel," said Koverman, referring to a hotel the city has been trying to lure out to I-90. "After Love’s contacted us, we put them in touch with the hotel group. They understood what Love’s offered for the city and the property, and are now looking across the street."
The hotel group negotiating with the city was encouraged by the interest by Love’s, Koverman said. "It certainly didn’t hurt that conversation," he said. "I think it certainly has renewed their excitement and what they think they have known to see it echoed by another company like Love’s."
The city moved quickly on the sale because Love’s does a 200-day review on its sites, including traffic studies. "We’re willing to do whatever to help them with the process," Koverman said.
The company builds about 40-50 travel plazas each year, he said, using local contractors where possible. Construction for the St. Charles plaza would begin in 2019.
Schaber said that in addition to being a large employer, the business would be a large utility user of sewer, water and electricity.
"When they first approached us, we did our due diligence," Koverman said. "We talked to other communities and got favorable comments back."
Love’s first approached the city early this summer when the city sold property in the business park for an auto dealership, Koverman said.
Koverman said the city is starting to reap the benefits of the business park, which was approved in 2011. "We knew this was our next best step for attracting businesses," he said.
Schaber said the sale of the land shows the draw of St. Charles for businesses and residents.
"When we built the park the economy was weak. Now it has some strength," the mayor said. "Our last two sales were from companies coming to us to ask about the land. To me, it shows there are more opportunities for growth."
The business park was designed for everything from a gas station and hotel to casual dining restaurants, light industry and manufacturing, Koverman said. "It’s good to see it come to fruition."