Cross Country Plaza in Columbus is poised to pick up three new tenants -- including a T.J. Maxx department store -- while a CarMax used-vehicle supercenter is headed for north Columbus along with several new food and service outlets.
Clothing retailer T.J. Maxx will be relocating from its existing 29,903-square-foot location at Fountain Square shopping center on Macon Road to the freshly renovated Cross Country farther west on Macon Road by October. The chain also has a store at Columbus Park Crossing.
The new store will take up 25,000 square feet of space formerly occupied by a Publix supermarket, which moved last December to an adjacent 54,340-square-foot spot in the center. The old Publix was just under 38,000 square feet, which means Cross Country management still has a 13,400-square-foot vacancy to fill.
"We have contractors selected. We'll probably start mobilizing for demolition I'm hoping next week, and get started," said Leo Wiener, a partner with Huntersville, N.C.-based Glenwood Development Co., which bought Cross Country Plaza in 2004. "It's about a 10- to 12-week turnaround. It was critically important that they get open for this Christmas season."
The two other tenants bound for the shopping center are an 1,800-square-foot Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins combination with a drive-thru window, adjacent to the AT&T wireless store fronting Macon Road, and a 2,400-square-foot Great Clips hair-care outlet next door to Blockbuster Video.
"It's coming full circle for Baskin-Robbins, which used to be in the center years and years ago," Wiener said. "We were looking for a morning kind of drive-time coffee, and the ice cream was icing on the cake so to speak. It will feed off the local neighbors, and you've got the college and a whole lot of different traffic patterns that will take advantage of that."
Farther north, off Veterans Parkway and across from Hughston Clinic and Hughston Hospital, will be the CarMax used-car superstore. Situated adjacent to an Advance Auto Parts store, it is slated to open next spring, according to an email from CarMax public relations representative Elia Imler.
The chain, founded in 1991, is the largest used-car retailer in the nation. It has grown to more than 110 locations in the United States and is in most major cities. The Columbus store is among nine that the company has on its drawing board.
Adams Brokerage Co. broker Wes Lewis said he is eager to see construction begin on the CarMax and hopes to time that with redevelopment of the old Lowe's/Bill Heard property next door. That project will include tearing down the old structure.
"I am working as diligently as I can on it right now. We're negotiating a bunch of deals and, if they all come together, I think it will be a nice addition to the north Columbus market," said Lewis, who has nearly filled the Columbus Park Northwest strip shopping center on Whittlesey Boulevard.
The center is situated adjacent to the new LongHorn Steakhouse and includes a Five Guys Burger and Fries outlet that opened Monday. A Zoës Kitchen, CherryBerry yogurt shop and Sports Clips all have recently opened there, while Macintosh retailer PeachMac has pulled out. Lewis said a nail salon has signed at the location, however.
Three food outlets aimed at feeding the hungry masses in the Columbus area have made commitments. They are The Egg & I, a breakfast and lunch chain out of Colorado, Dallas-based chicken-wing operator Wingstop, and Jim Bob's, a chicken finger specialist with locations already in Opelika, Ala., and LaGrange, Ga.
The Egg & I, to be co-located with Wingstop in space previously occupied by the Bavarian House restaurant at 2528 Weems Road, was founded in 1987 on the premise that, according to art on its website, "Mother always told you to eat breakfast." It will serve up omelettes, waffles and pancakes for breakfast, and soups, salads and sandwiches for lunch, with typical weekday hours of from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. -- 30 minutes longer on weekends.
Wingstop, which bills itself as the chicken-wing "experts," should open in September with 42 seats and a heavy carryout operation, said franchisee Ed Miller, who also has the Bruster's Real Ice Cream outlets in Columbus.
"They're actually one of the largest wing franchises in the country. There's a little over 500 stores," said Miller, who has committed to opening two Wingstop outlets in the local market. "It's a good concept, so I'm hopeful that it's going to do well."
Columbus developer Bud Allen, who owns the shopping center that was home to Bavarian House near Main Street Village, said restaurateur Monkika Washington was simply ready to retire.
"She was a great tenant and I loved her to death," he said. "She had been there with us nine years I think. But she just thought it was time to hang up the spatula."
Not far away from The Egg & I will be Jim Bob's off Whittlesey Boulevard in front of the Hobby Lobby store. Fronting the roadway next to Columbus Bank and Trust, the 3,500-square-foot standalone restaurant will seat about 60 and have a drive-thru when it opens late this year, said Stella Shulman, executive vice president with Jordan Commercial Real Estate.
"It's an expansion into Columbus and new to our market, and that's always a very healthy thing to have going on in the industry," said Shulman, whose company also negotiated the recent four-acre land deal for the Georgia Military College campus on Blackmon Road. The campus, which includes a 25,000-square-foot building, is to open for classes in January. Rounding out the coming attractions on the commercial development front are a Goo Goo 3 Minute Express Wash on Gateway Road in front of the Walmart Supercenter, a 10,000-square-foot liquor superstore across from the Carl Gregory dealership on Victory Drive, and an Anytime Fitness center on Summerville Road in Phenix Crossing shopping center.
Construction on the car wash and the liquor store are about to ramp up, while the 24-hour fitness center should be open within 90 days. It is going inside 4,000 square feet of space formerly occupied by Movie Gallery.
"We looked at different sites," said Anytime Fitness franchisee Stephanie Blevins, who is opening the center with her soldier-husband, Daniel. "There's a lot of neighborhoods around there. We wanted to be convenient for them. And we have the (Publix) grocery store, so it's really more convenient for people while they're out running around and stuff."
In the pipeline are a couple of other projects that are too early in the negotiation stages to disclose, said developers. One is at Billings Crossing on Gateway Road, the strip shopping center fronting the Walmart.
"We're about to finalize some leases on building a small strip center next door to (Goo Goo)," said developer Ben Billings. "We'll be adding a couple of restaurants and one of my existing tenants in my shopping center will be relocating there."
Allen Development Group also is working on a deal near its existing Veterans Commons shopping center, said Allen, whose company also is preparing to open its first apartment units at Summit Pointe on Williams Road in July.
Allen said commercial prospects were more active early this year, but appear to have backed off somewhat heading into the summer. Uncertainty about the economy and the political situation -- with a presidential election coming up -- are the likely reasons, he said.
"There's so many things right now that are up in the air, I just think people are uncertain," Allen said. "We've had a number of people who we had gotten to the point of actually signing leases and they basically said, 'We want to wait a few months, maybe the first of the year before we do anything now.'"
That makes landing T.J. Maxx and the other tenants at Cross Country Plaza all the sweeter for Wiener at Glenwood Development, particularly following the $10 million the company spent on the shopping center's renovation.
It all adds up to solid progress for the Midtown Columbus, he said, an area which has slowly, but surely rebounded following the loss of Columbus Square Mall several years ago in the Macon Road area near Interstate 185.
"You listen to the fringe complaining," he said. "But if you close your eyes and you think about what the potential for the area is going to look like in five to 10 years, with all of that critical mass and traffic and people coming to the library, the city services center, the natatorium, the school board and how many jobs they brought there, it's such a win for the area."