A shopping center and well-known Greenwood restaurant near a busy intersection are about to get a makeover.

More than $1 million in improvements are planned for the Vista Village shopping center, near the intersection of Main Street and Emerson Avenue, including at the Oaken Barrel restaurant.

This week, the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission approved spending $500,000 in tax dollars to help with that work, which will give the shopping center a new look.

Investing in the project was important to keep a longtime business and to improve a key gateway and corridor in the city, redevelopment commissioner president Brent Tilson said.

“This is important, this is part of Greenwood’s corridor, and people come from all over,” Tilson said.

Oaken Barrel owner Kwang Casey teamed up with local developers Todd and Billy Bemis to buy the shopping center and make significant improvements. The property has been in disrepair for 10 years, and it was beginning to reflect badly on his business, even though he didn’t own the property, Casey said.

Casey is working with the Bemis Group on an event center in downtown Franklin, which led to discussions on partnering to buy the shopping center in Greenwood. Casey wanted to improve the property but didn’t think he had enough experience in commercial real estate to buy it, and the Bemis brothers suggested partnering on the project, Casey said.

“I’ve had my eye on this facility for some time, and it just has all kind of worked out,” Billy Bemis said.

Casey and the Bemis brothers spent $1.4 million to buy the property and now plan to invest more than $1.2 million on improvements during the next three years, Casey said.

Those improvements include redoing the exterior of the shopping center, including siding, windows and doors and the parking lot, Bemis said.

They also plan to add new landscaping, clean up the retention ponds on the property and rename the center as Airport Plaza Parkway with new signs, Bemis said.

The new name also goes along with a long-term plan that Bemis envisions: extending Airport Parkway, which currently ends on the airport property just south of County Line Road. He would like to see the road extended to connect Main Street and County Line Road as a route for visitors from the airport and as another option for traffic, with the congestion on nearby Emerson Avenue, he said.

Bemis hopes the improvements to the shopping center will serve as a catalyst to boost development on the east side of Greenwood.

The group went to the city redevelopment commission to ask for help with the project and proposed two scenarios. The first was the redevelopment commission spending $200,000 to help with parking lot and drainage. And the second was to spend $500,000 to help them jumpstart the revitalization project, Tilson said.

Redevelopment commission members chose the $500,000 project to help revitalize that area and make it a bigger destination for Greenwood, Tilson said.

The improvements go along with other projects the city is working on, including a $500,000 matching grant program to improve businesses along Main Street and Madison Avenue, which was also approved this week, he said. The money will come from the city’s tax-increment financing, or TIF, district dollars.

Work is expected to begin in the next 30 to 60 days, Bemis said.

One of the first tasks is to fix the parking lot, but that work can’t start until asphalt is available, and many companies are busy with road paving projects, Casey said. Plans also include adding an outdoor patio area to the front of the building, he said.

“It will look nice. Exciting things are happening,” Casey said.

The shopping center has up to 12 storefronts and 28,000 square feet for tenants and about 4,000 square feet are vacant, Bemis said. Their hope is to attract more retail shops and restaurants to the center, to have more options for residents and visitors on that side of the city, Bemis said.

Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.