COLUMBIA CITY — After closing its doors in 2007, the former Scott’s Food & Pharmacy location has a new tenant — Dunham’s Sports.
At a reception hosted by the Whitley County Economic Development Corporation Tuesday, Michigan-based real estate developer Jeff Kerr announced the sports retailer will occupy 60 percent of the building.
Kerr touted the support of the EDC and Columbia City.
“We are delighted to potentially have the opportunity to take a vacancy and hopefully warm it up and make it vibrant,” Kerr said.
More than 19,000 square feet will be available for subdividing to other possible tenants.
“We are going to build for Dunham’s almost 30,000 square feet in your community. We think from a merchandising point of view the category of retail goods is good, and we think they are going to help us fill the rest of the center,” Kerr said.
“They are very nice people and exceptional retailers. Their stores are performing. I think they will be a terrific member of the community.“
With 170 stores, Dunham’s Sports is one of the largest sporting good chains in the Midwest. The store started in 1937 in Waterford, Mich., which is still the company’s home. In its infancy, Dunham’s was known as a bait and tackle shop, now the company offers a full line of sporting goods, athletic equipment as well as footwear in 16 states. Currently, Dunham’s Sports has stores in Warsaw and Auburn in Northeast Indiana.
“We’re hoping to get the contingencies removed from the Kroger (Scott’s) deal and get construction underway this March. It would be great if we could open late May or June,” Kerr said. “Dunham’s would really like it if we could perform, but there has to be several things that have to happen first.”
Kerr Real Estate also announced plans for a possible outlot in the southwest corner of the parking lot.
“There is a mass of parking in the corner,” said Kerr. “A building could be built in the parking lot, closer to U.S. 30, whether it is a restaurant, a bank or whatever, it would be a free-standing building or buildings that could be constructed without jeopardizing parking requirements.”
Although there is room for other businesses, Kerr said there were no specific companies eyeing the spots.
“We are talking to everyone, but we are so early in the process it’s too early to develop serious interest,” said Kerr. “The good news is we think we have access and the ability to talk to people, but we don’t have anybody interested yet.”
Restaurants and fashion retailers are two types of companies Kerr hopes to attract. However, other kinds of companies interested in the space would be welcome.
“One advantage to the property is specific for retail,” said Kerr. “It is very visible and there is a traffic signal. It has good access, visibility and access to other retail business. These are all great advantages to the space.”
Preparing the space for Dunham’s occupancy means a vast amount of building repairs. Since the building sat unoccupied for many years, the list of items needing attention span from replacing the mechanical system to upgrading heating and air conditioning units.
“We will be aggressively entertaining quotes from your local contracting trades,” Kerr said. “Columbia City has a pretty good local contractor base and Fort Wayne is also a chip shot away.”
Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel said having a business fill the vacant building is “critical.” He returned Kerr’s gratitude with his own appreciation for what the development will bring to the city.
“Dunham’s is a great store and it will be new endeavor, but we are all excited to get this project rolling,” Daniel said. “We have a lot of great people here, but this is a big deal for Columbia City. It’s a big deal, not only the for investment, not only the reuse of the building, but for the jobs and the potential use of the space. I am glad we can celebrate this together and we are getting the next chapter started in Columbia City.”
Dunham’s recently announced a store would be opening in Fort Wayne across from Glenbrook. Although the Fort Wayne location will be a bit bigger than the Columbia City store, the retailer still had to consider if the buying community would financially support two locations within a close proximity.
“We have done multiple dealings with Dunham’s. They won’t get involved in the pre-development phase; they prefer to wait until space is ready,” said Kerr. “Once they get there they will sponsor a ribbon-cutting, and a good share of their corporate staff will come.”
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