Finard Properties LLC has completed the first of many phases in redeveloping Poplar Plaza at Poplar Avenue and South Highland Street – a multimillion-dollar project undertaken to ultimately prepare the center for a new Kroger.
The Burlington, Mass.-based real estate company has relocated nine tenants to deliver the space needed for Kroger’s new 86,500-square-foot building, which will back up to Prescott Street and face east. So far, Finard has chipped in about $2 million in tenant improvements, contracts and relocations.
“We have done that on time and on budget and delivered the building to Kroger, who is actually going to build their own building,” said Rick Smith, director of leasing for Finard’s Memphis office. “We think that’s a huge thing, because in construction you don’t hear a lot about on time and on budget. We were actually one month early in this first phase of work in delivering it to be ready for the demolition phase.”
Finard, which has a Memphis office at 145 Court Ave., has owned the 360,000-square-foot center in the University of Memphis area for more than 25 years. The company also owns Germantown Plaza and Whitehaven Plaza.
The past 120 days have entailed moving GNC into the bay formerly occupied by Smoothie King and relocating Dollar Tree across the parking lot from its current space. Dollar Tree, along with new tenant Comcast, will take over the old Rite Aid Pharmacy space and face inward, toward the new Kroger.
“We took the back drive-thru of where Rite Aid was and we blew out the whole front of the building,” Smith said. “Now it’s the front doors of Dollar Tree, so it’s kind of cool. Their parking is better here. It’s good for Cici’s Pizza and Tuesday Morning.”
Rick said all stores will be each of the chain’s “prototype” store – or the national model for new construction. This includes the Kroger, which, unlike its location on Sanderlin Avenue and several other stores where renovations have occurred, will be built from the ground up.
“There’s going to be things in here that the remodels could not accomplish,” Smith said. “It is going to be their latest concept and it is going to be a drastic change for these shoppers and a whole new shopping experience.”
Upon the Kroger’s completion in summer 2013, Finard will come back and raze the old Kroger for a parking lot.
Despite those drastic changes, the retail center will perhaps be most noticeably different from the viewpoint of Poplar. Taking over the 18,000-square-foot Bookstar space will be Gould’s Day Spa and Momentum Rehab, both relocating from within the center.
Momentum Rehab is already open, still facing Prescott as before, just about 100 yards south. Gould’s, an original tenant in Poplar Plaza from the 1950s, contracted its work through Metro Construction and is expected to open Monday, March 26.
The remaining occupier of that bay – about 7,300 square feet – is Osaka Japanese Cuisine, which will start construction this week in the plaza for the restaurant’s fourth location in the Memphis area. Finard is aiming for an opening in the third quarter.
After Gould’s relocates, Rosie’s Nails will move into Gould’s old space. Rosie’s was previously housed between Dollar Tree and GNC, and is located inside Shoename’s vacated bay for the time being.
Besides Shoename and Smoothie King, tenants that have not renewed leases in the center as terms came up over the past several months include Handi Maps, U.S. Securities, Advance America and Midtown Medicine.
Finard’s architect of record for the project is Thoda & Associates, but it has used several contractors along the way. That’s where project manager, Bobby Tranum with CB Richard Ellis Memphis, deserves “the tip of the hat,” Smith said.
“At one point, we had nine jobs under construction among five different contractors, all at the same time,” Smith said. “That’s a lot for one shopping center. Bobby was integral in us pulling first phase off on time and on budget. I just want to honor him for doing that.”
Even though some of the tenants “underwent misery” in the relocation process, Smith said, it’s all for the better of the center, and therefore for the community.
“Yes, the landlord relocated them, but now that that’s all said and done, they’re in a better location, they’re new and improved,” Smith said. “We’re certainly thankful for their cooperation, but we believe this is one of those win-win things. That’s why the shopping center is good; that’s why we can make a profit, because it fits the community’s needs.”
Once the relocations are complete and the redevelopment vacancies are taken out of the equation, Poplar Plaza will be 98 percent occupied – with two vacancies, one at 4,500 square feet, the other 2,025 square feet. And that’s when the other tenants facing Highland within the center will begin to reap the benefits, Smith said.
“A year from now when the doors are open, we’ll freshen up the landscaping by putting in a little more money to the curb appeal of it,” Smith said. “Gould’s, Osaka, Comcast, the new Dollar Tree, plus the new Kroger – all of that is going to increase our traffic.
"Shopping centers thrive off traffic.”