The multimillion-dollar Sugar Creek Commons redevelopment project on West Verona Avenue still has some important steps to take before real construction begins, but demolition and other prep work started last month on the site.

That meant the end of some decades-old buildings, including a former truck stop, a recently closed car wash and a former auto repair shop.

The combined project as approved by the city last fall and this spring includes 284 apartments and 26,000 square feet of retail on three three- and four-story buildings and a 110-room hotel. Located between two other redevelopments on West Verona Avenue – the Sugar River United Methodist Church and the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store – it has involved putting together 10 separate properties and more than two years of back and forth with the city.

While city leaders have sought the teardown of at least the long-abandoned truck stop for more than a decade, a request for as much as $5 million in tax-increment financing has held the development back.

Interim city administrator told the Press in an email the city’s financial analysis of the project – to ensure it meets the “but for” test for TIF – can be time-consuming.

“There is some back and forth between the developer and (city financial adviser) Ehlers in order to obtain the necessary and correct information,” he wrote. “We continue to work on the (developer agreement). I wouldn’t say it’s imminent, but it could be coming in the future.”

Forward Development Group representative Ron Henshue told the Press on Tuesday the company authorized demolition, site exploration and initial design-related work in anticipation of the developer agreement being ready soon, and he said the goal is to be building around mid-July.

Henshue said contractors did some initial testing last week to see what soil remediation might be necessary on the site. While there is expected to be some and the full analysis isn’t complete, he said FDG was happy with what they found. He noted that the former truck stop was already closed to 20 feet deep and the hotel is only going 14 feet deep for its underground parking.

Email Verona Press editor Jim Ferolie at veronapress@wcinet.com.