MISHAWAKA — Plans for an “electric car company” showroom and automotive center — long-rumored to be Tesla — at the former JC Penney Home Store site at Grape and Cleveland roads appear to be dead.
Chris Sotos, representing Key Development Partners, the firm developing the project, confirmed on Tuesday the contract with the electric car company — which was never officially named — was terminated this past summer. He did not provide any other details.
The car company, which was believed to be Tesla, had proposed leasing the 35,500-square-foot JC Penney building from Key Development, and razing the smaller building to the west, while the developer was to make improvements to lighting, the parking lot and landscaping.
City Planner Ken Prince said Friday that he’s heard rumors that the deal had fallen through. The move, he said, likely had more to do with Tesla’s current expansion plans than any issues with the site.
“The market will ultimately determine how the site is developed,” Prince said. “It’s a great location that could be developed in any number of ways with respect to the surroundings.”
The council voted for the zoning change to allow automotive use in the current strip mall after Sotos detailed the discussions he had with neighbors who questioned the development’s lighting, traffic patterns and the impact on their homes to the north and west.
Sotos said at that time that Key Development was under contract with the car company to buy the site from its local owner and lease it to a “high-end electric automobile, solar power and renewable energy” company.
Though the developer never named Tesla as the firm that was on its way, Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood, back in July, even joined in the speculation, calling the auto company’s identity “the worst kept secret” in a post on social media after the council vote.
Tesla’s nearest showrooms are in Indianapolis and Chicago with a test-drive facility in Fort Wayne. According to the Ann Arbor News, Tesla is considering the possibility of a showroom there in a longtime bowling alley building.
The company didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
South Bend Tribune reporter Ed Semmler contributed to this report.
Email South Bend Tribune reporter Greg Swiercz at [email protected].