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Costco comes to Mt. Juliet

Costco Wholesale, a membership warehouse club, is coming to Mt. Juliet.

The Mt. Juliet Planning Commission unanimously forwarded a positive recommendation on Costco’s preliminary master development plan to the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners during Thursday evening’s meeting.

The project is planned to be built at the southwest corner of the future intersection of Rutland Drive and Legacy Pointe Boulevard.

Costco will also be part of the Legacy Pointe development, a Class A office/medical/retail community that will be located off Golden Bear Gateway.

Costco’s development plan includes a 160,057-square-foot retail store, a 24-vehicle fueling center, and a 34,920-square-foot in-house delivery facility.

“We have been recruiting Costco to come to MJ for many years at the request of our residents, and we are most thankful and excited that Costco has chosen MJ to build a new store,” said Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenny Martin.

Costco will be part of Legacy Pointe’s third phase of development and is expected to bring approximately 275 jobs to Mt. Juliet.

Costco currently has six locations in Tennessee.

Mt. Juliet Mayor James Maness said he is very happy to confirm that the rumors for a new Costco are true.

During Thursday’s meeting, Mt. Juliet Planning Director Jennifer Hamblen detailed the variances that Costco’s developer was asked to follow, such as pedestrian connectivity from Rutland Drive to the front of the store. She added that BL Companies, a Connecticut-based civil engineering firm and Costco’s developer, agreed to enhance the landscape above city code in some areas of the site.

Hamblen said that the developer also agreed to move the shopping cart corrals against the heavily-landscaped islands.

Cherie Akers, BL Companies’ senior project manager, presented a satellite image of Costco’s future site to illustrate their landscape plans. She also proposed to incorporate certain design standards for Costco, such as having the building parapet (a low wall) less than the height of the rooftop equipment on three sides of the building.

Mt. Juliet Planning Commissioner Chairman Luke Winchester questioned why the in-house delivery facility is not on the east side of the property since it provides a better access point for tractor trailers entering and exiting Costco than the west side.

John Dapogny, the architect for MG2 (a global architecture firm), said that Costco’s operations department dictated the design of the forthcoming Mt. Juliet location.

Renee Rutherford, Costco’s real estate development director, said the design of the delivery facility is for cross-dot configurations.

“The whole thing is to get as many things in and out as quickly as possible,” said Rutherford.

Rutherford noted Costco does not provide deliveries between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., and the trucks that provide in-house delivery go out at 8 a.m. and come back at 5 p.m.

Akers pointed out that Costco has a long tradition of giving back to many communities, and she said that the company will continue to do so once they come to Mt. Juliet.

“Costco will spur additional development and other retail opportunities that will be available to your residents,” said Akers.

A Titan-sized surprise

Two days after spring break, Castle Heights Elementary students filed into the gym dressed in the colors of the Tennessee Titans.

As the bleachers filled, the kids began a chant of “Lets Go Titans,” filling the air with excitement.

After Castle Heights Elementary School placed second in a ticket fundraising competition, its students won an opportunity to participate in T-Rac’s Fuel Up to Play 60 game show and a visit from the mascot himself.

Other special guests included former Titans cornerback Reynaldo Hill and Titans cheerleader Heather Hamilton.

Technology teacher Angie Clark applied for Castle Heights Elementary School to partner with the Tennessee Titans four years ago. Since that time, Castle Heights Elementary and 10 others across Middle Tennessee have competed in ticket fundraiser events for a chance to win special prizes, such as a Titans pep rally.

“They would give us access to discounted tickets for home games, and we would put out the links to the staff and the students,” Clark said. “We would get $10 for every ticket that was sold, and the tickets were around $45.”

Students were unaware that their gym had been transformed into a Titans celebration on Tuesday when they arrived at school.

“We did pretty good that first year,” Clark said. “Then, 2020 hit, and they didn’t do it that year. Last year, we participated and had a really good turn out. This year, we just had lots of people participate. We were trying to be a part of the top three, because the top three schools were the ones who received the Titans show. We worked really hard, and our families bought tickets, shared it with their family and friends. We ended up winning second place, so we won one of the pep rallies.”

The school’s fundraising efforts raised a total of $1,860 for its school-wide positive behavior program.

The main focus of the show put on by the Titans was to teach the students how to eat healthy and stay active through games and trivia.

“It has a focus on healthy living and healthy habits,” Castle Heights Elementary Principal Shelly Armstrong said. “Eating well and being active is a component, as well as players and cheerleaders (who are a part of the show). We don’t really know (who will attend) until they get here.”

The students were told that they were having an assembly and were having a Titans gear day, but they were surprised when they found out that the assembly was actually the game show.

“Most kids in the area know the Titans and know that’s a big deal,” Armstrong said. “Just knowing that a Titan or someone related to them is in the building is exciting for them.”

During the show, teachers competed in trivia, a jump-roping contest and battled alongside students to see who could stack the most apples. At the end of the show, students received parting advice from their guests.

“My biggest advice would be listening to someone in your family that you look up to,” Hamilton said. “You always want to have at least one person in your corner supporting you throughout your entire life, whether you’re 7 years old or 77 years old.”

Getting students home safe

The Mt. Juliet Police Department and Mt. Juliet High School administration are coming together to address potentially unsafe conditions created by drivers not following dismissal protocol.

Law enforcement says that the issue at MJHS has gotten progressively worse throughout the school year. Complaints from the community include parking in nearby neighborhoods, students parking at nearby businesses to avoid parking on campus, and increased pedestrian traffic that in turn increases congestion in the area.

“The complaints we receive of careless driving are likely related to new drivers not understanding the true consequences of driving carelessly,” Mt. Juliet Police Department Public Information Officer Tyler Chandler said. “We’ve also received reports that non-license drivers are parking off campus so they can drive to school. To obtain a parking pass on campus, the student has to provide a valid drivers license. So, parking off campus is a way to circumvent the school’s rule and law.”

Stonehollow, Jackson Hills, and Tuscan Gardens are among the neighborhoods affected, as well as the the Learning Academy. The Mt. Juliet Police Department’s hope in increasing its presence around dismissal time will cause a decrease in unsafe driving.

“Our presence does not necessarily alleviate the traffic,” Chandler said. “The goal of our presence is to reduce unlawful activity and for roads to remain clear.”

In addition to the the department’s efforts, MJHS administration is also working to alleviate the issue.

“Emails have been sent to students and parents detailing the plan for morning drop-off and afternoon pickup,” MJHS Principal Beverly Sharpe said. “There are multiple crossing guards in the morning and afternoon, along with MJHS admin, who are outside directing traffic and monitoring students who ride buses. Minor adjustments have been made throughout the school year. Over 2,000 students (from MJHS and West Wilson Middle School eighth-graders) come on our campus every day, and we do our best to make arrival/dismissal run as smoothly as possible.”

The way to do that, Sharpe says, is for parents and students to follow the school’s traffic plan.

“Follow instructions from crossing guards,” Sharpe said. “Do not pick up students in neighborhoods. Do not pick up students on Golden Bear Gateway, and understand (that) we are doing our best to get students on and off campus as safely and efficiently as possible.”

Increased pedestrian traffic on Golden Bear Gateway is a safety concern for administrators.

“The main concern is students getting picked up on Golden Bear Gateway and students walking to parents parked in neighborhoods by the MJHS campus,” Sharpe said. “We also have many students who walk home to nearby neighborhoods. Drivers need to be alert and always watch for pedestrians.”

To follow the school’s dismissal plan, motorists can pick up students in an authorized location that follows the school guidelines. Students should only load on to buses in an authorized loading zone. Student drivers should park in a designated parking space on campus.

“In areas that have pedestrian traffic, the plans get off course, and it causes congestion,” Wilson County School District Public Information Officer Bart Barker said. “It causes some safety problems.”

More than what adults could do

In the three years since Green Hill High School was founded in Mt. Juliet, there have been four student deaths that have shaked the community.

Now, thanks to an Eagle Scout Project, there is a place on campus where other students, family members, and educators can go to remember them.

The parents of the four students were informed of the memorial, and there are plans to bring the families to campus to see it in the coming weeks.

“They just felt honored and glad to know that their child would be remembered by their peers, and that there’s a place (for them),” GHHS Principal Kevin Dawson said. “It’s exposed enough where, as you’re driving through campus, you can see it, but it’s private enough so that you can go, sit out there and have some quiet moments to reflect. The parents were glad to know that that area was available and that that was going to be there.”

Students who are now memorialized are Gavin Cole, Aambria McGregor, Hayden Howard, and Austin Scott-Lee Gordon.

“Unfortunately, in Green Hill’s short history, there have been three or four student deaths and a few employee deaths,” Wilson County Schools Public Information Officer Bart Barker said. “You would think that a school that’s only three years old would not have experienced the kind of unfortunate tragedies that they’ve had.”

The concept of constructing a memorial began in Green Hill’s first year of existence when it lost its first student.

“We’ve been talking about it since year one when we lost our first student, but nothing ever came to fruition,” Dawson said. “With the recent passing of Aambria, I sat down with one of my school counselors who is very motivated and said, ‘Look we’ve got to finally make some headway on this. Within a day or so, a student named Jackson Phibbs reached out to me and said, ‘I’m looking to do an Eagle Scout project, and I’m looking to do something along the lines of a memorial.’ So, it all came together organically.”

When Dawson first agreed to Phibbs doing the project, he’d imagined a small garden.

“He came up with this brilliant platform with a bench that really exceeded my expectations,” Dawson said.

The school counselor reached out to the families of those who would be remembered in the memorial and got their permission before it was constructed.

“He (Phibbs) and Boy Scout Troop 911 did all of the labor,” Dawson said. “They came out and worked two weekends. They came out to the school and worked pretty much all day Saturday, and the second weekend, I think they worked Saturday and Sunday. They were incredibly efficient. He came up with 100% of the plans, and I didn’t ask him to change anything because I was so pleased.”

When he’d heard that the memorial was complete, Dawson went out and sat, enjoying what his students had built.

“It’s always a sad, sobering moment, when you’re looking at young lives that are lost,” Dawson said. “It was very nice to see that we can memorialize these students and continue to remember them.”

Dawson said that the students building the memorial meant more than what adults could do.

“It’s a memorial built by students and for students,” Dawson said. “I think that that has more significance to it than a bunch of adults coming out and doing it. That’s what impressed me. My students are doing something for their lost peers.”