New Center Planned on Old Kmart Site
Kohl's has apparently made an exception to its new store criteria in deciding to anchor the proposed Southern Pines Village shopping center at the former Kmart site.
In a small or rural market with generally 100,000 residents, the company says on its website that it prefers a 64,322-square-foot prototype department store on about six acres.
But Kohl's is slated to take only 55,000 square feet in Southern Pines Village, according to a master concept plan unveiled Monday at the monthly Southern Pines Town Council work session.
"We do have an agreement signed with Kohl's," says Blaine East, managing partner for Landcore Group in Raleigh.
Christie Wolfe, a spokeswoman for Kohl's, declined to confirm or deny that the company had signed a letter of intent.
"We do not comment on real estate speculation," Wolfe says. "Kohl's has an ongoing real estate assessment process. At any given time, Kohl's is reviewing sites in communities nationwide."
East plans to partner with Keith Thompson, of VPI Commercial Realty in Knoxville, Tenn., to purchase the site from Weingarten Realty Investments.
"A new joint venture is being formed to develop the site," East says. "We plan to close on the purchase in the first quarter of 2011, begin moving dirt immediately and have the center completed in 18 months."
East, who says the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain has also signed a letter of intent, expects further tenant announcements within the next 30 days.
"We've been aggressively working on national retailers, and the response has been fantastic," he says. "We're excited. We feel like there are great opportunities here."
Southern Pines Village will feature 170,613 square feet of retail and restaurant space in 15 pads, ranging in size from 2,640 square feet to 55,000 square feet. There will be six pads in the main strip, three each in the side strips and one in each of three out-buildings along the front. The Kmart building, which will be torn down, has 169,000 square feet.
"The building has been sitting empty so long," East says. "It's been vandalized. And there are mold issues."
The building has been vacant since 2003, when Kmart closed more than 325 stores in one fell swoop.
Bob Koontz, director of land planning for Hobbs Upchurch & Associates in Southern Pines, says the biggest challenge in developing the master plan was enhancing the current character of the property.
"We wanted to park it and landscape it correctly while spreading the retail space around the perimeter of the property to give it a more village-type feel," Koontz says.
Town Manager Reagan Parsons says the developers must file a rezoning application that will need approval from both the Southern Pines Planning Board and the Town Council. The property is currently zoned General Business-Conditional District.
"It's an application to basically change the conditional district by moving the buildings around and changing the architecture," Parsons says.
Conditional approval was granted in 2008, when Home Depot requested it, but that company never moved forward with any plans at the site.
The Kmart building is on Brucewood Road, which runs between Morganton Road and U.S. 15-501.
Landcore previously developed Fairway Village on U.S. 15-501 in Southern Pines, which is anchored by Hickory Tavern.
At the time of its initial public offering in 1992, Kohl's had 79 stores in the Midwest. Today, the Menomonee, Wis.-based company operates 1,089 stores in 49 states. Of that total, 751 are located in strip centers, 78 in malls and 260 are free-standing. The company owns 35 percent of its stores and leases 37 percent, and 28 percent are ground-leased.
Kohl's sales have grown by almost 70 percent over the past seven years, from $10.3 billion in 2003 to $17.2 billion last year.
The company's merchandise mix is 32 percent women's merchandise, 19 percent men's, 18 percent home, 13 percent children's, 10 percent accessories and 8 percent footwear, according to the website.
Since 2004, Kohl's has shifted from 75 percent national brands to 52 percent, while increasing its private and exclusive brands from 25 percent to 48 percent. The company considers its private and exclusive brands to be a market differentiator because they are "available only at Kohl's."
Kohl's has about 29,000 full-time employees and 104,000 part-time associates. Employment peaks during the back-to-school and holiday seasons.
The Pilot could not determine how many new jobs would be created if Kohl's opens a Southern Pines store.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at email@example.com.
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