, Newburyport, MA

February 18, 2013

Shopping plaza courts more tenants

Old Navy, Dress Barn, Five Below new to mix

By Angeljean Chiaramida

---- — SEABROOK — Old Navy, Lane Bryant, Dress Barn and Five Below could be joining the retail mix in the 500,000-square-foot shopping center planned for Seabrook.

Those national stores are listed along with previously announced HomeGoods, PetSmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Michael’s and a super Walmart on a site plan for the new shopping plaza at the intersection of routes 1 and 107.

The latest version of the site plan, a copy of which was recently sent to The Daily News, shows an increase of stores at the retail plaza being built by Ohio-based Developers Diversified Realty — from 10 in recent months to a current total of 15 spots. It also indicates that most of the 15 available storefronts may already be spoken for.

Neither DDR Vice President of Development Jim Grafmeyer, who shepherded the project through its sometimes contentious approval process, nor DDR’s marketing office responded to calls last week concerning the new site plan.

However, the site plan carries the lowercase “ddr” logo of Developers Diversified Realty, which after years of negotiations successfully won approval to develop the shopping mall on 47 acres in town.

Dated Jan. 15, 2012, the new site plan represents the 10th revision to the configuration since first drawn in November 2008. It carries a disclaimer that says it is for “general information purposes only” and “any and all features ... are for illustrative marketing purposes only.” The disclaimer also indicates the plan is “subject to modification without notice” and is “not intended to be relied upon.”

The eighth revision of the plan had shown only 10 retail outlets, ranging in size from 6,000 to 190,365 square feet, which would house the anchor Walmart store.

The latest plan illustrates 15 storefronts ranging in size from 4,250 square feet to Walmart’s 189,564 square feet. “Proposed” leases are identified for another 13 retail spots, with two remaining spaces at 4,250 and 7,774 square feet respectively still available.

Two proposed tenants have raised some eyebrows.

According to the new site plan, Staples — which has an existing, 24,286-square-foot, stand-alone store on Route 1 — is attached to a 15,728-square-foot store in DDR’s mall.

And Famous Footwear — which is also already doing business in Seabrook next to Kohl’s Department Store — is listed as another possible DDR tenant, occupying a 5,500-square-foot spot.

That could mean that three established stores in Seabrook, including Walmart, will relocate to DDR’s plaza, leaving vacant space in their stead.

But given Seabrook’s location on the Massachusetts border, town assessor Angela Silva said she isn’t worried about the future vibrancy of the community’s retail sector. She believes that before long, other businesses will arrive to fill the empty storefronts.

Forces are already at work marketing Walmart’s current 150,000-square-foot home in the Seacoast Shopping Center on Route 1, she said.

For years, the Seabrook Walmart has sought to expand with the addition of a full grocery department, but its desires have been stymied both by space constraints as well as competition-related restrictions within the center it now shares with Shaw’s grocery store.

While there has long been speculation that Walmart would move to another, larger location in town, many were surprised that the store has chosen to accompany other retailers at the DDR site. In recent years, new Walmart stores have often been built as stand-alone sites.

According to Silva, Walmart has purchased its building and land beneath it from DDR as a condominium unit. That means the town will bill Walmart directly for taxes, she said. DDR would be responsible for the property taxes on the remaining land and structures.

At about 40,000 square feet, Dick’s Sporting Goods will be the second largest store in the shopping center. HomeGoods would occupy almost 25,000 square feet and Michael’s another 18,000 square feet. Old Navy and Staples would be about 15,000 square feet apiece, with PetSmart at about 12,000 square feet.

Target Department Store was originally proposed as the anchor for DDR’s shopping center, but that deal never materialized.

No building permits have been issued yet for the DDR site, according to the building inspector’s office. However, DDR received a building permit in September for $9.8 million worth of site improvements and utility work in support of its anchor tenant, which at the time was not named. The cost of the permit was $59,185.

The new site plan shows 1,600 parking spaces primarily located between two parallel strips of stores — six stores, including Walmart, on the south side of the plaza and nine stores on the north. Entrances are off Route 1 across from New Zealand Road and off Provident Way, behind Provident Bank. All of the entrances were approved after a lengthy battle, Off-site road improvements call for widening the Route 107 bridge over Interstate 95 as well as Route 1 and Provident Way.