A grocery store inside the mall?
Court documents related to Independence Mall’s foreclosure proceedings indicate that it’s a possibility, naming Fresh Market as a potential tenant for 23,000 square feet of space in the Sears wing of the indoor shopping center at 3500 Oleander Drive in Wilmington.
Officials with the upscale grocery store chain, based in Greensboro, said in an emailed statement Tuesday that the company can’t comment on potential store sites or opening dates.
“In order to provide more flexibility in developing the company’s long-term growth strategy, The Fresh Market has re-evaluated the timing of its new store opening announcements,” the email said. “The Fresh Market is continuously reviewing its investment priorities, which often results in shifting opening dates. As such, the company does not plan on projecting or speculating on specific store opening timing prior to construction start.”
The Fresh Market Inc. opened a 27,000-square-foot store in Virginia Beach’s Pembroke Mall in March, according to a company news release. The chain’s only existing Wilmington location is at Mayfaire Town Center off Military Cutoff Road.
The possible Fresh Market lease is mentioned throughout a September report on the mall’s status prepared by Helen Lewis, general manager of Independence Mall. Lewis’ report was filed Nov. 7 by an attorney for mall operator Madison Marquette as part of foreclosure proceedings in New Hanover Superior Court on half of the more than 1 million-square-foot mall.
Mall officials said Tuesday that they can’t comment on lease negotiations, and it is also the policy of Madison Marquette not to comment in news reports on the financial status of the mall.
The special servicer on a $110 million loan on about 500,000 square feet of the mall, a loan that was reported in default two years ago, has been working with Madison Marquette on selling much of the property, and an unnamed buyer is expected to close on the transaction in the first quarter of next year, according to a recent report from the servicer
The foreclosure is proceeding at the same time as a potential sale in case the transaction doesn’t take place.
A lease of more than 20,000 square feet of what appeared to be mainly vacant space Tuesday would boost the mall’s numbers. The September report filed in court said 87 percent of the mall’s primary gross leasable area is occupied, 93 percent if temporary leases are included.
The report also said August sales were down by 2.31 percent, but year-to-date sales were up 3.25 percent. The strongest sales categories for the mall, according to the September report, were hobby/special interest (5.49 percent), restaurants (5.13 percent) and groceries (3.61 percent). The weakest categories were jewelry (19.62 percent) and gift/specialty (4.05 percent).
As for revenues, the report says the mall's year-to-date net revenue as of September was about $7.7 million, nearly $300,000 higher than was budgeted.