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New Martin's will serve as anchor for Wesel plaza

April 05, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

HALFWAY - After Martin's Food Markets moves out, the Illinois-based real estate company that owns Valley Park Commons plans to redevelop the Wesel Boulevard site with its former tenant as anchor.

John DiGiovanni, senior vice president for development of Inland Retail Real Estate Trust Inc., of Oak Brook, Ill., said Inland agreed to let Martin's out of its lease early because it is only moving a few stores away.

"Even though we don't own it, they really are, essentially, the anchor to that whole retail node," he said.

Martin's officials expect to open the new, 65,000-square-foot market in the late spring or early summer.

After submitting development plans for a new market on Railway Lane in March 2004, Martin's revised its plans about a month later, seeking instead to build its new store on the Wesel Boulevard location next to the shopping center.

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"It's kind of a long and complicated story, but ... we were able to intercede and circumvent that move and keep them close at hand," he said. "It was a benefit, obviously, to everyone."

Martin's spokesman Denny Hopkins said the company filed plans for the Railway Lane site because the former Wal-Mart property it is now building upon was not available. After it filed plans for the other site, he said, Inland stepped in to help Martin's acquire the Wal-Mart property.

As part of that intervention, Hopkins said, Inland agreed to let Martin's out of its lease 60 days after the old store closes and the new one opens.

Inland bought the 89,589-square-foot Valley Park Commons for $11.3 million in March 2003 from the Ahold Real Estate Co., parent company of both Martin's and Giant Food Stores.

DiGiovanni said that while Inland no longer will have Martin's as a tenant, he expects the new market to serve as an anchor to reinvigorate the shopping center.

Hopkins said he, too, believes the new market will generate enough foot traffic to stimulate growth at the Commons.

"I believe we will still be a very strong draw, even a stronger draw" than at the current store, he said. The new store, at 65,000 square feet, reflects the company's new model for its Martin's supermarkets, and he said this will be the first of its kind in the region.

"It's going to create a lot of excitement," he said.

The existing shopping center merchants will remain where they are, DiGiovanni said, and said he hopes to minimize impact on them while Inland changes the facade of the vacated supermarket to match the new Martin's.

DiGiovanni said he is dealing with several merchants interested in replacing the market. He declined to describe those businesses by type or name but he said he expects to formalize a deal or multiple deals within two months.

If all goes as planned, he said, the renovation could start this summer and conclude by the end of the year. At this point, though, the plans are conceptual.

"We have not solidified our plans at this point," he said.

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