While the City of Oak Ridge North continues to revamp its economic development strategy, one of the city’s largest shopping centers is receiving a facelift from Grocers Supply. The company has purchased all the property in the Oak Ridge North Shopping Center along I-45 and has begun a complete renovation.
Susan Cates, Oak Ridge North economic development coordinator, said Grocers Supply began discussions with the city about a year ago regarding the renovation of the shopping center, off the I-45 feeder road just south of Robinson Road. Grocers Supply owns the Food Basket grocery store in the center and negotiated with two property owners for the purchase of the remainder of the center, Cates said.
“We’re committed to supporting Hodges Food Basket, and we felt like the center had good potential and it would help the image of the store,” Grocers Supply Chief Operating Officer Dave D’Arezzo said. “We own a lot of supermarket real estate in the state of Texas and generally we like to own the whole center so we can control the quality of the tenants.”
Since purchasing the 4.8 acres of property—which includes 27,700 square feet of buildings and space for either one additional large building or two smaller buildings—Grocers Supply has begun improving the facade of the buildings, Cates said. Upgrades will also be made to the signage, as well as landscaping and water and sewer infrastructure.
“It’s going to be an incredible benefit to the revitalization of that freeway district,” she said. “It changes our whole front door. So many people got their first impression of Oak Ridge North as they were on the flyover in stop-and-go traffic going into The Woodlands. And they’re looking over to their right and they saw a very aged out property that had significant vacancies.”
The shopping center is about 80 percent vacant, Cates said, although some businesses will remain, such as Nielsen’s Bakery and Nails Forever. Grocers Supply is working with The Retail Coach—a retail recruitment firm hired by the city—to bring types of businesses to the shopping center the city is lacking, including restaurants and other sales tax generators.
“They are specifically targeting areas that we know [fill] a void,” Cates said. “And our citizens, through the comprehensive planning process, have confirmed ‘This is what we want.'”
The city is also encouraging Grocers Supply to reel in sales tax revenue-generators with an Economic Development Corporation sales tax reimbursement, which begins in fiscal year 2014 and phases out over three years. The city also has an agreement that reimburses the company after renovations are completed and proof of payment is provided.
The agreement includes a reimbursement of costs up to $60,000 for facade, window and awning improvements; up to $15,000 for landscaping improvements; up to 50 percent of the cost up to a maximum of $25,000 for the purchase of a multi-tenant pylon sign; and up to $75,000 for water and sewer line improvements.
The funding provided by Grocers Supply for the renovations depends on the tenants that fill out the shopping center, said D’Arezzo, who praised Oak Ridge North for its help in the process.
“The city has been very helpful working with us on different ideas,” D’Arezzo said.
While no new businesses are confirmed for the shopping center, improvements should be completed by Oct. 1—when the city’s 2014 fiscal year begins—and new businesses could occupy vacancies soon after, Cates said.