The world’s largest retailer will anchor a redeveloped shopping center in Richmond’s East End.
Walmart Supercenter will move into Eastgate Town Center, a planned open-air retail complex at Nine Mile Road’s Fairfield Commons mall.
Bromont Investment Group, the project’s Arizona-based developer, will demolish the dated mall and plans to have the 190,000-square-foot Walmart open by next fall.
“All the real estate fundamentals are here: a great neighborhood, great community,” said Bromont Development Director Joshua Rector. “But the buildings are aged and need to be rebuilt.”
Walmart will make up more than half of Bromont’s planned 300,000-square-foot Eastgate Town Center. Bromont will buy the land from its current owner, develop a site for Walmart and then sell that land to the store, Rector said.
Walmart will pay to build its own store from there.
Site plans submitted to Henrico County call for another 80,000-square-foot building as well as a 15,000-square-foot retail strip at Eastgate. A fourth building will add nearly 7,000 more square feet.
Peebles, a current Fairfield Commons tenant, has committed to staying at the shopping center. It will take 16,000 square feet of the 80,000-square-foot building, tripling its current space.
Rector said several tenants have submitted letters of intent, but no other leases have been signed. Bromont will try to pull more tenants from the mall’s current roster.
“We started with the bigger tenants in the mall, and we’re working our way through and reaching out to everyone,” he said.
Fairfield Commons opened as Eastgate Mall in 1967. It was anchored by a Thalhimers department store and was the Richmond area’s second enclosed mall after Azalea Mall in Northside.
The property was most recently renovated around 1990 and has floundered in recent years. Rector said almost half the space is vacant. CBRE | Richmond broker Rob Black is handling leasing for the rebuilt Eastgate Town Center.
Bromont has had its eye on the property for at least two years and put it under contract a year ago. That deal is expected to close in the fall. Fairfield Commons is currently owned by locally based Chiocca-Talley Malls Inc., which bought the property for $2.9 million in 1996. Yasmine Hamad and Brian Glass of Colliers International are representing Chiocca-Talley in its sale.
Bromont announced its plans at a Friday morning press conference attended by a group of Henrico County officials and a handful of East End residents.
County Board of Supervisors member Tyrone Nelson, who was a store manager at the mall’s CVS Pharmacy in the late 1990s, said he hopes the project will spur along more development on the Nine Mile Road corridor.
“To stand out here today and be part of a process that will revitalize Nine Mile Road and shoot some energy into Eastern Henrico – it’s a good day,” he said.
Not all East End business owners are so optimistic. Cynthia Lewis, a co-owner of Fairfield Commons childcare center Kinder Touch Learning, said the redevelopment could hurt her business.
She said she was drawn to the location, where the company pays about $2,500 a month in rent, because the mall’s lagging traffic made it a quieter place for the daycare center. Lewis said she’s unsure if the company is interested in taking space in a renovated Eastgate Town Center. She did not say how much the company had already invested in the business.
“Just as important is the time and effort we’ve invested” she said. “And we can’t get that back.”