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Old K-Mart plaza to see new retail life?

For a few years now, the old K-Mart site on Avondale Dr. just off I-85 has sat vacant, with no activity save the occasional illegal dumping into the wildlife area to the property's rear, and the concomitant biannual visits by local Scouts troops to clean up their fellow man's junk and help the resident beavers out a bit.

The vacant shopping center has been an eyesore and sore point for neighbors in the Duke Park, Colonial Village, Northgate Park, and Braggtown communities, which have wanted to see the old shopping center put to more productive use.

The late 2006 opening of a Compare Foods supermarket in the old Winn-Dixie portion of the shopping center just to the west of K-Mart's pad was a good first step towards renewing the sleepy center. Now comes word from retail and office researcher CoStar that Harbor Freight Tools, the popular retailer of "top-quality tools," has leased 15,000 sq. ft. in the vacant K-Mart building, which is currently undergoing up-fit and renovation in preparation for the store's arrival.

Also of interest: CoStar reports that another 30,000 sq. ft. in the old K-Mart has a pending lease; together, this means that half of the old discount store's space is now spoken for. No word on what other tenant is coming to the building.

From the "Stuff I Never Knew" department: Apparently, the landlord for the K-Mart building is none other than the NCDOT. Anyone know more about that?

Comments

Jonathan Jones

It's welcome news for those of us who live nearby.

There aren't many sights worse than an abandoned big-box store surrounded by a sea of empty parking spaces. OK, there are plenty of worse sights, but I'm still glad some life will be breathed into that end of the complex.

Barry

news to me that NCDOT owns the KMart plaza. we had several meetings/written correspondence with a party up in Virginia who i thought was the owner, and the leasing agent is a private party in Raleigh.

i know that NCDOT owns some of the land around the shopping center.

to be honest, i can think of a number of more attractive tenants for that building, but something is better than nothing, i guess.

wonder who's going into the other 30,000 square feet?

AR

The Durham GIS indicates that the old K-Mart is owned by Durham Plaza Associates, LLC- Norfolk, VA (unless I've clicked on the wrong parcel!).

Kevin Davis

Barry, AR -- this NCDOT attribution could be an error on CoStar's part. Here's the relevant quote from their article: "Transwestern Commercial Real Estate Co. represented the tenant in the transaction. Hugh Cohen, CCIM, SIOR, vice president of Harbor Group Commercial Management Co., the leasing arm of Norfolk-based Harbor Group International LLC, represented the landlord, North Carolina Dept. of Transportation."

Hmmm... this seems to shed some light on it: it looks like the K-Mart's address is consistently listed as 2000 Avondale Dr., but Durham GIS identifies that as the parcel between Roxboro and Avondale that was used as a staging area for the I-85 widening, and which is indeed owned by NCDOT. OTOH, the K-Mart itself does seem to be owned by Durham Plaza Associates LLC.

So, my guess would be CoStar took the 2000 Avondale address and pegged it back to its owner of record, NCDOT, not realizing that the K-Mart doesn't actually exist at _that_ address.

Barry

seems like a feasible explanation, Kevin. But boy, is that some sloppy/lazy reporting if that's the case.

here's a thought. The KMart Plaza sits right off I-85 at the first Durham exit for people traveling between DC and Atlanta. A pretty lovely branch of the Ellerbe Creek flows through the property, and it's also the home of one of the largest beaver ponds in the state. The open space master plan, or whatever that document is actually called, has a trail running through there and eventually connecting up with trails that go to Lake Michie.

The opportunity to turn that space into a remarkable showpiece still exists. A place which would say that we know that what we have here is special, not only to people who are passing through here, but also to the people who live here. There are any number of folks on the Open Space and Trails Commission who get it, but as far as the people who can sign checks and make things happen, not so much. It's the kind of project that benefits from citizens pushing to make it happen, but much more so from leadership that gets it. Too bad that seems to be lacking.

At least we got nice landscaping at the Hillandale and Guess Road exits.

KH

This entire Avondale strip up to Club Blvd. will be redeveloped in the next 10/15 years IMO. We have to patiently wait on the market though.

In the mean time, any tenant is better than no tenant at all. Better property maintenance would go a long way also.

BCRVisitor

It's great to hear that Harbor Freight is coming to town. I don't think they necessarily boost the aesthetics of a neighborhood or shopping area, but I like shopping there. Though you need to be mindful of quality since they do not sell the best, long lasting products.

On the other hand, I am not a fan of Compare Foods by any means. I think their prices are far higher than nicer, well branded names, and they are usually located in areas where people living nearby could use a financial break. I know that, maybe, they are the only game in town as other brand markets are reluctant to build in certain neighborhoods, but their pricing is such that I would never shop there since driving down a few miles will save me a bunch of money. Of course, I have not seen a Compare Foods that has raised the standards of aesthetics in a neighborhood either.

But, when an area is desperate, I guess they take what they can get. Sad. But, like others said, having a leased location with the potential of that leaseholder improving the property is a better option.

Barry

The Avondale strip up to Club has, the efforts of PAC2 volunteers and the Beaver Pond Merchants Ass'n. notwithstanding, deteriorated significantly over the past 5 years. Just south of I-85, the residential blocks have gone downhill. Most of this is due, in my opinion as someone who lives along those blocks, to the neglect of a relative handful of landlords who are happy to take their $750/month and not put a nickel back into their properties. The city hasn't helped, allowing half a dozen properties to remain vacant for several years. Some sidewalks would also be a significant improvement, as would benches (at least) at the bus stops, if not concrete pads and shelters. Following up on complaints about shitty landlords and tenants (see my various posts over the past year at my blog) and actually checking into illegal construction would be helpful.

The city talks a big game about "broken windows;" they've got an opportunity to put that into practice along Avondale, and so far have been unable to do so.

North of I-85, the big neon "CHECKS CASHED" sign sets the tone for the entire commercial area, letting you know what kind shopping you can expect to find there. I've already noted the natural resources of the district. Some leadership (perhaps something along the lines of DDI, which receives a fairly significant amount of money from the city to talk up the downtown area) would be extremely helpful. I'm afraid that if we wait for the market to be the major actor, things will continue to deteriorate.

As far as Compare Foods goes, like any shopping experience, you've got to be savvy. Costco doesn't always have the cheapest prices on the items they carry either. Here's some things i buy regularly which are almost always cheaper at Compare than Kroger or HT or Costco:
lemons
limes
avocados
red peppers
jalapenos
chicken
cabbage
dry beans
potatoes
Mexican coffee
tortillas
tostadas

brand name and packaged items, not so much. Compare is also the only store in town that regularly has fresh pork belly and lamb shoulder chops in the meat section. Prices for those are fair, and occasionally on sale. And it's the only place in town for whole steer heads.

Michael Bacon

The Avondale/Roxboro area is one that should get a significant boost from the East End Connector, if we can ever get it built. Not just from taking the killer through traffic off of the roads, but by making that intersection 10 minutes away from RTP. Also, just the improvements of US 70 that go with the EEC should improve the connection to the airport, which should help a bit. Given all that, along with its relative proximity to Durham Regional, I could see some office development headed in there in 5-10 years.

Barry

at the current rate of progress, land and buildings will be really cheap along this corridor in 5-10 years. i've certainly run out of patience as far as it being a place where i want to live.

Natalie

We have a compare foods over by the ballpark too. fresh produce is by far always cheaper at the compare foods than K-Roger and doesn't have that nuclear fallout green color so common at Food Lion.

One of my problems with that shopping center though is that thanks to the NCDOTs work it is now impossible to take the main exit and turn towards downtown on Roxboro now. We have to detour to club then roxboro to get back home.

barry

Natalie - every one else makes the left turn from Foushee onto Roxboro. I've spokent o Transportation Department about this, but i don't know if they'll be either making it safer and legal to make that left, or putting up some sort of obstruction to make it impossible to turn left from Foushee.

The other thing you can do is turn left on Avondale from Foushee, then turn right onto the service road. Then you can make a left onto Roxboro from there.

Of course, if it was safe to walk there . . .

Angel

KH, your comments about Compare Foods prices don't seem to match reality. I live in Colonial Village and we are not desperate by shopping there. Their prices are way cheaper than Harris Teeter and Kroger, and even Food Lion. We don't shop there for everything, but their produce is definitely the most affordable in the area. The price of their limes, cilantro and limes are hard to beat.

Compare Foods is also a popular place for people seeking specialty products at an affordable price, that you can't find in the regular supermarkets. Where else can you buy Spanish olives stuffed with jamón serrano or calamares en su tinta (another delicacy from Spain) at a reasonable price? You may find some of the same stuff at Whole Foods, World Market or A Southern Season, but you will pay double or more.

We are happy to see new businesses in the area and are hoping a movie theater operator will take over the empty movie theater space.

TSQ75

"On the other hand, I am not a fan of Compare Foods by any means. I think their prices are far higher than nicer, well branded names, and they are usually located in areas where people living nearby could use a financial break. I know that, maybe, they are the only game in town as other brand markets are reluctant to build in certain neighborhoods, but their pricing is such that I would never shop there since driving down a few miles will save me a bunch of money. Of course, I have not seen a Compare Foods that has raised the standards of aesthetics in a neighborhood either.

But, when an area is desperate, I guess they take what they can get. Sad. But, like others said, having a leased location with the potential of that leaseholder improving the property is a better option."


WOW. that is, by far...THE whitest comment i've heard in a long time. That's ok, you and your upturned nose can keep out of my Compare.

KH

Angel - I believe BCRvisitor made the comment about Compare Foods. I'm not a big shopper so I wouldn't know. I'd rather buy in bulk so I don't have to go back.

BTW, there will not be another theater in the area w/ the new theater at Northgate. In any other City, the theater would be a nightclub. I miss the $1 theaters of old (Riverview, Yorktown, Lakewood). I'm not sure there is a market with the popularity of DVDs and many rental options. I was definitely rooting for the Spanish-language theater...

Realistically, the center is in the middle of a moderate income area that most retailers will shy away from. I was hoping for a Run & Shoot-type (no pun intended...basketball courts, indoor batting cages, tec.) tenant for the K-Mart building.

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