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Warren Davis Properties now owns the former Circuit City building and is looking for a new retail tenant.
Warren Davis Properties now owns the former Circuit City building and is looking for a new retail tenant.

Developers wrangling for retailers

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In the midst of a tough market for retail, two area developers are working to fill new developments in south Springfield.

Real estate agent and developer Tom Rankin formed Republic Road LLC to develop The Shoppes at James River, a 14.5-acre project on Republic Road near the renovated interchange of James River Expressway and Glenstone Avenue.

Rankin is investing about $2 million in the land for infrastructure and site improvements, including an outer road and multiple fountains.

Two anchor tenants for the development are in place: a 140,000-square-foot, five-story Hilton Garden Inn on the east end of the development and Springfield's second Houlihan's restaurant, a nearly 70,000-square-foot building on the west end. Both are being built by O'Reilly Hospitality LLC, which owns the Doubletree Hotel and Houlihan's restaurant on North Glenstone.

About eight acres between the two anchors seems to be the rough spot, Rankin said. He is courting national tenants to build large freestanding facilities, but he may be in for a wait.

"Retailers all across the country are sitting on their hands," Rankin said. "I think this development is special because it gives access to that Glenstone corridor where retailers want to be, and we've had good responses. But a lot of the larger retailers aren't making decisions about new stores. They're on hold."

Rankin, meanwhile, said his development is not on hold. He hopes to begin site work in the next few weeks, once all final approvals and paperwork are cleared with the city of Springfield. After that, he said the site should be ready for hotel and restaurant construction within about four months.

Rankin's development is aided by the June approval of a community improvement district for the property, which allows the developer to collect an additional 1-cent sales tax for reimbursement of infrastructure costs. He said that CIDs don't usually act as a direct draw for retailers, but they offer indirect benefits.

"It does let us make site improvements that I normally couldn't bear the expense of. The fountains are an example - we can recover those costs over a long period of time," he said. "We can do some things to dress it up and make it nicer, and then the retailers will view it as a nicer development that could draw them in."

Meanwhile, Ron Stenger Cos. is developing James River Commons with Columbia-based The Kroenke Group, and that development's anchor tenant - Springfield's second Sam's Club - is scheduled to open July 23.

The 150,000-square-foot store anchors the west end, but leases for the rest of the 63-acre multitenant retail development seem to have stalled. Developer Stu Stenger said there are no new tenants to announce, though negotiations continue.

"We're trying to prelease a building, and once we get it about half preleased, we'll start construction on it," he said in a phone message, adding that he hopes to have an announcement to make in about a month.

Craig Van Matre, the Columbia attorney representing the developers, told Springfield City Council in September that the market had slowed for retail tenants.

"Our optimism in when we were going to get the Sam's Club built greatly exceeded the reality of the situation, and as a result, things have been backed up," Van Matre said at the time. "And because of the change in the economic condition, the rental of other stores is being delayed."

Those comments were in connection with a request to expand the length of the development's CID by five years, to accommodate a longer time frame for securing tenants. The developers told Springfield Business Journal late last year that they are seeking a mini-anchor, such as a sporting goods retailer or hardware store, to occupy about 40,000 square feet.[[In-content Ad]]

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