With , concerns about businesses leaving the shopping center have reached a frenzy in the community.
But those concerns are unfounded and the center will be better than ever after the renovation, said DeeDee Iacopi, property manager for the Arntz family. Gene Arntz built the shopping center in 1967 and the family still owns it today.
“It’s a couple of months of construction for years of success,” said Iacopi, noting that a number of the remaining businesses will be doing their own renovations and “reaping the rewards.”
Construction at the center began earlier this summer and, when finished, the several million dollar upgrade will include enhanced public spaces, walkways, benches, a firepit and plaza, and a new entrance.
“This place has been the same forever,” said Iacopi.
Plans are continuing as initially proposed – see the rendering at right – and most major work should be done by the holidays.
“In the next three weeks, you’ll see everything coming together,” said Iacopi.
Work will be stopped and all the fencing and construction equipment removed for holiday shopping, so as not to interfere with businesses’ busiest time. Any last work that has to be finished, such as the entrance sign or firepit, will be picked back up in January.
While the plans remain the same though, there have been changes at the center.
Last year, the Arntz family brought on Main Street Property Services to do lease management and development consulting.
Historically, the Arntz family has always managed their own property and been understanding about late rent or business owner concerns, said Iacopi. With the new lease management company and the changes at the center, a number of business owners became concerned about higher rents, forced renovations, and a different attitude.
In the last year a number of businesses have left Red Hill, citing increased rents, changes at the center, or just new locations that drew them: , , , , and, most recently, . is the only business at the center right now that is .
That was all the Arntz family needed to know to end the contract with Main Street Management.
“It was not a good fit,” said Iacopi. Though not all the blame for businesses leaving can be put on the management company, she said, “the proof is in the pudding.”
Critics of the upgrade at the shopping center have argued that rent increases are driving out shops and that the remodel is being forced on small business owners.
“We wanted to stay,” said Mark Perryman, president of the company that owned the closed Round Table and 11 others. . Perryman said he first learned the shopping center would not be renewing his lease, which was set to end in January 2012, when he read it in .
When the construction started, he said, it hurt business so much that there was no point in waiting until January – especially when he was having a hard time getting management to talk to him or let him know what was going on.
“There wasn’t any clarity or any notification [about construction],” said Perryman.
Round Table was even willing to bring the location up to new design standards, he said, because they wanted to stay.
Part of the upgrade at the shopping center, which is being paid for out of private money by the owners, said Iacopi, includes renovations and upgrades internally at the different stores.
Though the owners aren’t forcing anyone to do renovations, said Iacopi, management is working with the owners to encourage them to do upgrades, so that when they do a grand opening the shopping center will attract excited visitors.
Rents are increasing as well, she said, but they weren’t at market value before and many leases were decades old.
And, there are businesses that are more than happy to fill the empty spaces.
"We’re absolutely thrilled to be here,” said Jeff Shine, owner of . The yogurt shop, the most recent addition to the shopping center, was supposed to open back in April, but the whole store ended up having to be rebuilt.
The construction hasn’t been great for business, he said, especially since they’re at the very end of a long, blocked-off walkway, but “people come; they work to get in.” He’s optimistic that when all the construction happening right outside his front door is over it’ll be a great location.
“It’ll be worth us hanging tough,” he said.
Swirl isn’t the only business on board with the revamp. will be doing a complete renovation. will have an upgrade. will revamp at the beginning of the year. will be going all green with new machines.
And, there’s a whole list of tenants interested in moving in, said Iacopi, but she didn’t want to talk about any of them until things were finalized.
“Yes, we’re going through some changes, but in the long run it’ll be a better place,” she said. “We really, really appreciate everybody’s patience.”
Do you think the shopping center will be better with the upgrades? What stores do you want to see come in? Which ones will you miss that are gone? Have you been shopping there during the construction?