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VOL. 131 | NO. 106 | Friday, May 27, 2016

Laser Quest Closing In Poplar Plaza

By Madeline Faber

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Laser Quest, a longtime tenant in the Poplar Plaza shopping center, is set to close on Sunday, May 29.

“We have been a proud part of the Memphis community for the last 20 years and as a company continue to grow,” said Phillips Aldis, director of sales and marketing for the laser-tag chain headquartered in Canada.

Laser Quest, which opened in Poplar Plaza in 1996, will close its doors this weekend. 

(Daily News/Madeline Faber)

Laser Quest was one of the first tenants in a mid-1990s wave that changed the face of the East Memphis shopping center. Poplar Plaza has seen even more significant change in the past five years, and whatever tenant goes into Laser Quest’s space will continue the center’s evolution.

“The Kroger expansion is the biggest one,” said Rick Smith, director of property management for Finard Properties, which has owned Poplar Plaza for more than 25 years.

In 2013, Kroger replaced its location, which dated back to to the 1950s, with a new store that’s 30,000 square feet larger. To accommodate the grocery store, Finard had to relocate tenants, demolish some buildings and reconfigure parking.

In 2012, Finard renovated the old Plaza Theater, which faces Poplar Avenue and previously housed Bookstar, into Osaka Japanese Cuisine.

El Porton is in the process of moving from an outparcel to a bay facing Highland Street, and Another Broken Egg, a national brunch chain, will replace the Mexican restaurant.

“After a lease term of five years goes by, things go up,” Smith said. “We didn’t intend for the Laser Quest to not happen, but we’ve got the Kroger, Broken Egg and Baskin-Robbins, and we think we’ll keep moving the center in a great direction and get a strong tenant in there.”

The Laser Quest location is an endcap unit, which gives it desired corner-spot visibility. Laser Quest’s lease is for 7,900 square feet, but Smith said that Finard is open to reconfiguring the surrounding vacancies to create a 10,000-square-foot bay.

Crossing the 10,000-square-foot threshold would draw the eye of big-box retailers. About 70 percent of Poplar Plaza’s tenants are national chains, and most of the bays are less than 10,000 square feet. A midsized vacancy hasn’t come along in several years, and Smith believes it will draw a national tenant to the 28-acre shopping center.

“It’s a very busy center with high traffic counts on Poplar and Highland in the geographical center of Memphis and next to a brand-new, modern, ground-up Kroger,” Smith said. “We think that a national tenant would certainly be interested in that.”

Danny Buring, partner with The Shopping Center Group, said Poplar Plaza has the ability to attract any number of uses and that an entertainment or restaurant tenant would work in the Laser Quest space.

“I think Poplar Plaza is a bit of an enigma of a center,” Buring said. “It has been through a few series of evolutions over the past 50-plus years.”

The Poplar and Highland corner was first staked by Lowenstein’s department store, which opened in 1949. Dillard’s took over the space in the 1980s and pulled out 10 years later. When Finard purchased the center and began its full-scale renovation in the 1990s, it helped turn the tide from department-store island to multitenant center.

The former Lowenstein’s property was split into a handful of bays that opened in the mid-1990s. Drivers along Highland recognize the center by these original up-front tenants like Petco, Spin Street and Old Navy. Currently, Poplar Plaza is made up of 10 buildings with over 50 tenants.

Smith said that nearly a dozen tenants from that mid-1990s wave are still around.

“We think it’s wide open. We’re looking for any tenant 10,000 square feet or more that likes to be next to Kroger,” Smith said. “In the coming weeks we will start marketing, and certainly after Laser Quest moves out we will have some hopefully pretty big showings there.”

PROPERTY SALES 23 23 1,365
MORTGAGES 21 21 1,068
BUILDING PERMITS 117 117 3,173