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VOL. 124 | NO. 42 | Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Recession Not Welcome

New Cordova center lands tenants despite poor economy

By Eric Smith

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NEW DEVELOPMENT: The Vieux Carré is a $2 million, 10,400-square-foot, French Quarter-themed retail center in Cordova. It’s situated on 1.46 acres south of Dexter Road and west of Chickering Lane, just west of Dexter and Germantown Parkway. -- RENDERING COURTESY OF The Commons at Dexter Lakes LLC

A touch of New Orleans is taking shape in Memphis thanks to a family owned real estate development group called The Commons at Dexter Lakes LLC.

Led by Crye-Leike Commercial broker John Waddell, his wife, Nancy, and son, Jeff, the company is putting the finishing touches on a $2 million, 10,400-square-foot, French Quarter-themed retail center called the Vieux Carré.

The retail center, phase one of a larger development, sits on 1.46 acres south of Dexter Road and west of Chickering Lane, just west of Dexter and Germantown Parkway in Cordova. It should be up and running within the next month.

Vieux Carré – French for “old square” and what locals in New Orleans call the French Quarter – is nearly sold out, with just one 1,200-square-foot bay remaining out of seven, said John Waddell, who is targeting special retail or office tenants for the remaining space.

How can a new development do so well in these dire economic times? Waddell, one of the top commercial real estate brokers in town, noted that his access to clients looking for space all the time meant he had little trouble finding suitable tenants.

Moreover, he took potential clients’ needs to heart when designing and building the two-story Vieux Carré, which has fashionable features like wrought-iron balconies and functional features like ample parking.

CRESCENT CITY INSPIRATION: Vieux Carré was developed by The Commons at Dexter Lakes LLC, led by Crye-Leike Commercial broker John Waddell. -- RENDERING COURTESY OF The Commons at Dexter Lakes LLC

“We built the center with the right-size bays and in a location that would work for both office and retail,” Waddell said. “And we built it with the tenants’ needs in mind, such as extra parking – lots of parking – with a very unique look and easy access.”

Good location

The Cordova location has been one of the biggest selling points for the center, which is near a host of rooftops such as the Reserve at Dexter Lakes apartment complex and large retail centers like the Commons at Dexter Lakes, anchored by Kroger.

“It’s on a high-traffic road, which is Dexter, right off one of the busiest roads in the whole county, being Germantown Parkway, so we have a lot of traffic and easy access real close to all the big-box retailers, yet far enough away to be away from the congested area,” Waddell said.

The Commons at Dexter Lakes LLC bought the land last fall from John B. Maxwell Jr., trustee for the sellers, for $334,541, and also filed a $1.2 million construction loan through First Citizens National Bank to begin building the center.

Jeff Blackledge is the architect for Vieux Carré, and KT Construction LLC, whose partners are Scott Turnage and Riley Kail, is the general contractor.

Tenants so far include Crown Trophy, the Belle Ame Salon (owned by Helen Williams), Heart-Filled Floral and Gifts shop, financial planner Martin Hearn and Securitas America securities exchange. The final tenant improvements are under way at the center, with most of the building permits filed within the past two weeks.

More to come

Adjacent to the Vieux Carré retail center will be a similarly themed, 4,000-square-foot building leased entirely by the Swedish Solution, a Volvo service and maintenance shop owned by John and Nancy Alexander.

For the Alexanders, the decision to leave their current location at 5436 Pleasant View Road near Bartlett – where they spent 19 years running their business – was a simple one.

“Location, location, location,” said John Alexander. “It’s a win-win situation.”

The Swedish Solution locale is a build-to-suit space in the Vieux Carré, with John Alexander having helped design the building. Alexander said he wanted the ability to have a more adequate waiting room, a more suitable layout for the shop area, more robust insulation and better lighting for his company’s new home.

Though phase one of Vieux Carré is nearly completed, Waddell harbors bigger plans for the area, which encompasses about nine acres. He said the property will end up housing a $10 million to $12 million development; all of which will have the same French Quarter motif.

Next, Waddell said he is looking at a second phase of retail as well as small offices. That will likely include four 1,000-square-foot offices. But he plans to pre-lease those spaces before starting anything new.

PROPERTY SALES 20 283 9,885
MORTGAGES 43 289 10,905
BUILDING PERMITS 184 868 21,825
BANKRUPTCIES 0 256 6,219