Thursday, June 5, 2003

Kroger moving to revived mall

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

ANDERSON TWP. - The Forest Hills Kroger on Beechmont Avenue hopes to have a new home next year - the Anderson Towne Center, formerly Beechmont Mall.

"It will be the largest store that we have in the Cincinnati-Dayton market," said Kelvin Peyton, a supervisor in Kroger's real estate department. "The site lends itself to do so many more things than our current site allows."

The Kroger, currently 69,000 square feet and located across the street from the center, will become a superstore with 104,000 square feet - 30,000 square feet more than the largest Kroger prototype.

The new venue, on the site of the former Parisian store, will be able to sell more nonfood items than the current Kroger store does, Peyton said.

"Our rural stores do a lot of business in those items, and we think we can do a fair amount of business in nonfood retail in Anderson," Peyton said.

Kroger is finalizing details with the center's developer, Victory Investments Inc. Plans include construction beginning this year and the store opening sometime in 2004, Peyton said.

The existing building on Beechmont Avenue will likely be leased to other tenants. Peyton said businesses have already begun inquiring about the space.

Township officials aren't concerned about the vacancy.

"We certainly don't want any more vacant buildings, but we're hoping that as a large corporate resident, that they'll have enough clout to bring in another business," said Suzanne Parker, assistant township administrator. "That's prime real estate."

Other newly released plans of the Anderson Towne Centerdevelopment also show conceptual designs for the 50-acre open-air mall that include a streetscape design reminiscent of a 1950s downtown.

"It seems to be quite a trend in outside malls, that feeling of being able to pull your car up to a meter, right in front of the store," Parker said. "We're trying to duplicate that feel."

While Victory Investments has not released the names of other stores that will locate in the open-air shopping center, the township has said Lazarus will remain an anchor with a new exterior look.

Victory representatives could not be reached for comment.

Kmart, T.G.I. Friday's, Pizzeria Uno's, Royal Hair, LensCrafters and the Nail Salon will remain open during the ongoing demolition, which began in March, and construction. CVS Pharmacy will relocate into a freestanding building between the center's Beechmont Avenue entrance and the former Bill Knapp's Restaurant building.

The development will also include two office buildings overlooking the township-planned lake, a park and a Park and Ride, said township officials.

One part of the center that hasn't yet been nailed down is a movie theater. Parker said that's one of the major requests residents have of the new center.

Russ Jackson Jr., president of the board of trustees, is working on a deal with National Amusements, the operator of Showcase Cinemas, to open a theater.

"They love the site, but because a theater in Anderson doesn't fit into their expansion program, it would have to be built by local interests and local dollars, but would be managed by them," he said.

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