Cross Country Plaza, the city’s oldest shopping center on Macon Road, is considering converting its three free-standing buildings off Auburn Avenue to climate-controlled storage units.
Two of the three structures still have tenants in them, including New Leaf Consignment and a UPS Store in one and Tuesday Morning in another. But the latter retailer already is committed to relocating to the lower level of the center, while New Leaf is looking at a larger space adjacent to Publix on the lower level, Cross Country Plaza manager Vickie Smith said Thursday.
The third building, adjacent to the Tire Engineers automotive store, has been vacant for some time. It is about 20,000 square feet of space, as is the one now with Tuesday Morning. The structure with New Leaf and UPS is about 15,000 square feet.
“It’s in the very early stages,” Smith said of the proposed conversion to storage space. “The buildings would basically look exactly like they do. It would all be interior climate-controlled storage units. It’s not going to be your standard metal, roll-up door, self-storage unit, if we go that route. It’s going to be a first class operation. That’s what Coro does in every operation that they do.”
Coro Realty Advisors is the Atlanta-based real-estate firm that purchased the property from Glenwood Development in 2013, paying $36.6 million for the shopping center that dates to 1956.
It was Coro Realty’s President John Lundeen that MidTown Inc., an advocacy organization for the Midtown area of the city, cited in a blog “update” late Wednesday laying out details of the storage-unit project under consideration at Cross Country Plaza.
The proposal includes using Artisan Properties Inc., a storage-unit ownership and management company, to operate the storage units off Auburn Avenue and Cross Country Hill. Artisan Properties owns and manages storage complexes in the Atlanta area and in Columbus under the name, storage xxtra. Messages seeking comment were left Thursday at the company’s office on Whitesville Road and its Floyd Road storage complex.
The MidTown Inc. update said Lundeen had communicated a desire to create a “quality project” in the Midtown area, with fresh landscaping and streetscape work, along with “screening adjacent to nearby residential areas.” Current general commercial zoning of the property apparently allows for the buildings to be used for storage space.
MidTown Inc. Executive Director Anne King, said Thursday via email that her organization’s online update was in response to many concerned residents who had asked about the possibility of three storage units locating at the shopping center adjacent to residential areas. She also conceded that economic development and neighborhood enhancement and engagement “work hand in hand to grow a thriving place.”
“Understandably, the post has met with considerable disappointment and frustration. Know that we share that same disappointment. Our vision is probably like yours, a village center with restaurants and retail,” King said. “We also recognize the investment that Coro Realty has made in our community in the face of a dramatically changing retail environment. They have a responsibility to be financially profitable, and a commitment to being a good neighbor.”
Smith said Coro Realty Advisors would be offering a ground lease to Artisan Properties to handle the storage-unit business, if the conversion project comes to fruition. She said it should be about 60 days before a final decision is made by the company on whether or not to move forward.
“We’ll know by then if that’s the route we’re going or if something else comes up,” she said. “We’ve been marketing the 200 building (next to Tire Engineers) for the last three-and-a-half years. It’s very hard to get the national tenants and restaurants to look at Auburn Avenue because they’re not here and they don’t understand the amount of traffic that is there. Everybody wants to be on Macon Road.”
Thus, Smith said, the shopping center’s owners and management have to “think outside of the box” to do something worthwhile with the structures rather than having them sit empty or partially filled perpetually. She also tried to bring some context to the issue.
“The upper level, when those three buildings were built in the early ’70s, it was more on the line of local commercial businesses. That is what these three buildings were basically created for,” she said. “We’ve had businesses in and out of there. A lot of the community doesn’t support those smaller businesses, so one by one they’ve either located to north Columbus or they’ve closed.
“We certainly want to do what’s right for the neighborhood, for the shopping center, for this whole area. So we’re trying to come up with some different things that would work in these areas.”