We've learned a bit more about the proposal for a Harris Teeter in the Loehmann's Plaza at Hillandale Rd. and Front St., just north of I-85, courtesy of a retailer in the complex. According to our source, the Harris Teeter is in fact a done deal contingent only upon NCDOT's willingness to add a stop light for the complex during the planned widening of Hillandale Rd. -- an element that appears to be a shoo-in at this point in time.
Assuming that happens and the store moves forward, what's currently planned is nothing short of a major redevelopment of the shopping center, which the N&O reported last year would be renamed Croasdaile Commons. The central part of the strip mall -- in the area where Vickers Clothiers used to be, and a nail shop and dry cleaner sit now, etc. -- would be torn down and replaced by a 50,000 sq. ft. (full-size) Harris Teeter.
On the front of the property, closest to Hillandale Rd., would sit at least two retail outparcel buildings, each two stories, to house the kind of supporting retail pads that currently are located in the strip center. (Think of the design of Sutton Station in south Durham as an example.) Parking would fill in between the areas.
No word about what the impact would be on the southern side of the complex, where several restaurants and the Front St. Cafe currently sit.
The opening of a Harris Teeter at this spot would provide some in-fill shopping for central Durham residents in neighborhoods like Watts-Hillandale and Trinity Park while, given the current construction of an HT in northwest Durham at Horton and Guess, giving the Teet a chance at dominating grocery retail in this corner of the Bull City.
In other grocery news, rumors continue to swirl about Whole Foods being interested in relocating their Broad St. store to a not-yet-public site close to the current location, allowing the store to expand beyond its current, cramped 20,000 sq. ft. space. Reportedly Whole Foods has tried to negotiate with their current leaseholder, Weingarten Realty (which would be involved in developing the new store) a deal by which the old site would be off-limits to a grocery competitor, so no chance of a Fresh Market or Trader Joe's taking the space.
If such a relocation turned out to be the case, BCR's money -- and this is pure speculation, so no need to send the folks at The Regulator a defibrillator at this time -- would be on Weingarten looking to backfill Whole Foods' slot in such a scenario with a mini-big-box wine retailer (Total Wines comes to mind) or a national chain bookstore. The latter scenario would seem especially likely for a few reasons:
- Category leaders Barnes & Noble and Borders have a penchant for popping up near university campuses;
- The 20,000 sq. ft. Whole Foods site is just about the same size as the typical national bookseller site;
- Borders and Northgate were reportedly in negotiations several years back about a store at the struggling mall, so there's clear interest in the market;
- Neither retailer has a presence in Durham that's not in earshot of I-40.
Again, the bookseller angle is purely a best-guess based on trends in other campus towns. No matter what, though, we'll keep our eyes and ears out on the Whole Foods relocation rumors.