New retailers headed for Midtown Shopping Center on Macon Road

Bealls Outlet, Ross Dress for Less, Shoe Carnival and Dollar Tree among pieces of center’s major renovation

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comMay 17, 2014 

ROBIN TRIMARCHI rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com Macon Road looking west from Interstate 185 in a 2012 photograph. Cross Country Plaza is seen right, with the Midtown Shopping Center, Columbus Library and Muscogee County School District building. The city services building was still under construction at top left. 04.17.12

ROBIN TRIMARCHI — rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

The long-awaited revival of Midtown Shopping Center on Macon Road is now under way, with retailers Bealls Outlet, Ross Dress for Less, Shoe Carnival and Dollar Tree part of the mix.

They will join the 50-year-old center’s long-standing discount store anchor Kmart — along with T.J.Maxx at Cross Country Plaza across the road — to form an off-price hub for consumers seeking deals on clothing, shoes and accessories.

“I think that will be a field day for people wanting to save money. Between the three of us, I’m sure that they can cover all the bases,” said Bill Webster, director of public and government affairs with Bradenton, Fla.-based Bealls Inc.

He confirmed Bealls will be taking 21,600 square feet of space at Midtown Shopping Center, with expectations that the store could be open by February 2015. It would employ about 30.

“I understand that most of the shopping center, if not all of it that’s being redone, will be opening up in the spring,” he said.

Midtown Shopping Center, owned by Columbus real-estate firm Midtown Associates, which includes local businessman Richard Waddell, has been preparing for the renovation for more than two years.

Crews with Columbus-based construction firm, Freeman and Associates, recently began work at the 3150 Macon Road property. A city building permit indicates $3.5 million is being spent on the project in its early stage.

That compares to roughly $10 million that Glenwood Development shelled out on Cross Country Plaza’s renovation, work that was completed in 2012 with a new and expanded Publix supermarket and the T.J.Maxx store. Atlanta-based Coro Realty Advisors purchased Cross Country Plaza from Glenwood last summer for $36.6 million.

Coro Realty President John Lundeen said he is “delighted” to see the work on Midtown Shopping Center finally begin, and that it was sorely needed.

“It’s the best thing that could happen to that market,” he said. “We’re thrilled to see them finally get that center stabilized and going in the right direction because it hurts. Without that, it sort of makes everybody sort of scratch their head about the market.”

Lundeen, too, sees the entrance of Ross Dress for Less and Shoe Carnival into the Macon Road area near Interstate 185 as a significant change in the dynamics there.

“Obviously, the north side of town is the most popular area for shopping, without question,” he said. “We obviously think this area — plus the mall location which is an exit to the north — will prove to be dominant areas for retail on the south side.”

While Bealls Outlet will be a co-anchor with Kmart at Midtown Shopping Center, Shoe Carnival will not be your run-of-the-mill shoe store, said Mike Smith, senior vice president of real estate for the Evansville, Ind.-based company. It likely will open in March next year, just in time for Easter holiday shopping.

“The store will be 10,000 square feet. So it’s a larger format family shoe store,” he said. “Our average store has over 28,000 pairs of shoes in it. It’s a very deep selection of product and it’s branded footwear primarily. So there will be shoes for pretty much everybody. There will be athletic shoes, work shoes, work boots, dress shoes for both men, women and children; the idea being that we appeal to the entire family.”

Shoe Carnival, founded in 1978, is approaching 400 stores in 32 states and Puerto Rico. Bealls Inc., which dates to 1915, operates more than 530 stores in 16 states between its Bealls Outlet and Burkes Outlet brands.

Ross Dress for Less, meanwhile, is much larger, with nearly 1,200 stores in 33 states, the District of Columbia and Guam. It also has nearly 140 “dd’s Discounts” stores.

The Dublin, Calif.-based retailer did not respond to email requests for comment. It already operates a Ross Dress for Less at Columbus Park Crossing on the city’s north side, begging the question of whether or not that one will remain or be relocated to Midtown Shopping Center.

Mariah Klein, leasing director with Genesis Real Estate Advisers, said she doesn’t anticipate the 30,000-square-foot Ross store at Columbus Park closing. Genesis oversees tenant leasing at Columbus Park Crossing for the center’s owner, AVR Realty, which purchased the property from previous owner, Ben Carter Properties.

“They’ll stay at Columbus Park Crossing. Columbus is dynamic enough that they can accommodate multiple locations,” said Klein, noting T.J.Maxx also has two locations in the city, one at Columbus Park and the other at Cross Country Plaza on Macon Road. “Having multiple locations just helps build their brand and makes them stronger.”

For Chesapeake, Va.-based Dollar Tree, the Macon Road store will be its seventh in the Columbus-Phenix City market, according to its website. It operates nearly 5,000 stores in 48 states and in Canada.

All of the new activity at both Midtown Shopping Center and Cross Country Plaza signal a major moment in the long-evolving revitalization of the Macon Road area, said Anne King, executive director of MidTown Inc., an organization that promotes living, working, shopping and dining in that central area of the city.

Previous pieces, she said, include the Columbus Public Library, the City Service Center, the city’s aquatic center and, farther west on Wynnton Road, the Columbus Museum. The Muscogee County School District also plans at some point a district-wide arts academy in the vicinity of the library.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of things we’ve envisioned for some time kind of critically coming together,” King said. “With Coro Realty envisioning ongoing improvements and enhancements at the Cross Country center, the Midtown Shopping Center is a critical piece of it all.”

The MidTown director said her wish list for the area now includes a “family and business friendly” hotel, while there is always room for more places to dine.

“We already have some iconic local restaurants in the area, with Speakeasy, Country’s and Deorio’s, that were founded there and remain anchors for the community,” she said. “But more restaurants: That’s one thing we hear at MidTown all the time. More restaurants, please.” Coro Realty’s Lundeen said eateries are, indeed, on the company’s radar as it makes changes at Cross Country Plaza.

“In candor, we’re trying to attract some uses that aren’t there,” he said, noting a sporting goods retailer would be welcome. “We also feel like something along the lines of what used to be there, which is Pier 1 and some uses like that, would also be attractive. We’re trying to pursue those uses.”

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