Jan. 3, 2005 After almost a decade, the barren space where the Grand Union supermarket stood for many years, is in the process of becoming a commercial property again.
Grand Union was decimated in Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, and its remaining piles of rubble sat there for months as a reminder of the powerful storm which dealt a lethal blow to the Virgin Islands.
The area remained untouched except for a Footlocker outlet, until April last year when the Lockhart Corporation started construction on a new shopping center, which is now projected to open in the first quarter of 2005. A McDonald's restaurant with a playground will greet visitors at the front location.
Marna Green, Lockhart property manager, described the shopping center. "It's 12,500 square feet. It includes nine retail bays, which are generating a lot of interest. We are working with several different parties."
One feature of the new project will be a walkway arcade from Kmart at one end, to the Footlocker on the other, Green said. Right now, the walkway ends at Banco Popular de Puerto Rico on the north end.
Green anticipates the center will do well. It is located at the junction of two major roads, facilitating most of the east-west traffic on the island. This intersection, connecting Raphune Hill with Centerline Road and Estate Thomas Road, Green said, is the "highest daily traffic"' thoroughfare on the island.
Any local driver will back up that claim. From about 1 p.m. to 5:30 most weekdays, traffic is frequently close to grid lock in the area. A road-widening project, which has been on the government's drawing board since 2001, is to commence this spring. The project will include adding another lane to Centerline Road. (See "Bank Relocation to Pave Way for Road Widening").
This intersection will become the main entrance of the new shopping center, Green said. And there will be "ample front-door parking, with 260 parking spaces."
Harry Melendez, McDonald's marketing manager, is looking forward to the new restaurant. "It will be the same size or maybe a little bigger than the Tutu McDonald's," he said. "We will be able to offer better service than the Wheatley store. We'll have more room, an indoor lobby and an indoor play place." It is expected to open around August, Melendez said. Once it is open, the Wheatley location will close, he said.
Since April, plywood walls have been constructed to contain the construction, but you can peek through now to see the land-moving equipment at work. The back row of retail outlets is taking shape.
Kmart is experiencing higher than expected sales figures and meeting with "great success" with cruise ship crew and passengers, along with the local traffic, Green said.
She said the project was delayed by the November rains, but it is moving ahead at a good pace for a first quarter 2005 opening. Green said the "time is right" for the project, with the Roy L. Schneider Hospital and its Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Center scheduled to open this year right across the street, and the new Yacht Haven development, along with the island's largest high school and post office nearby.
Another 20,000 square feet of the area is being reserved for future expansion, which would increase the total available for lease square footage to approximately 128,000 square feet.
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