Old Kmart place sold
By By Paul Keane
After years of sitting dormant – and off the city and county property tax rolls – the former Kmart building will soon have a "super" Fred's Store as a tenant sometime in late spring or summer.
Atmore Mayor Howard Shell, city government representatives and representatives from Maxwell, Haley and Castleberry Real Estate made the announcement that Summit Properties has purchased the old Kmart building, and that a lease agreement has been developed with Summit and Fred's Stores to take possession of more than half of the building.
Rick Williams, owner of Summit Properties, said he works quite a bit with Fred's, purchasing land and buildings throughout the Southeast, restoring or building facilities and the leasing out space to the company. Fred's will occupy about 25,000 square feet of the building, and Williams said he has other national retailers looking to lease the remaining 15,000 square feet.
The building once housed the Kmart store in town, but was sold to the City of Atmore when that retailer moved to its current location. The building and land has set dormant for a number of years, taking in no sales tax nor property tax for the city or county.
"We've done a number of projects like this one," Williams said. "Once we are through and Fred's is in place, it will be like a miniature Wal-Mart, so to speak. The store will be prototypical to what people are used to at the Fred's across the street from here, only it will be larger."
Williams developed a similar project in East Brewton, developing what he called a "showcase" for a retail location.
"We like to develop showcase properties, and we will maintain this as a flagship for the area," Williams said. "We will power wash the parking lot and building each month, and we'll end up spending $10-20,000 on landscaping alone.
"We're going to re-do this building. You won't even know it's an old building by the time we get finished with it. There will be a new front, new lighting both inside and outside, a new parking lot and asphalt to the street for both the side and front entrances and exits."
While not saying which retailer may join Fred's in the building, Williams said that "99.9 percent of the time, we bring another national retailer with Fred's to the location." He said construction on the project will begin soon and could be finished in as few as 45-60 days.
"I would say no later than 60 days," he said. "We're going to shoot for 45, but it is going to depend on weather and the construction schedules. One thing we are not going to do is cut any corners just for the sake of speed. We won't be doing things that way, but we don't want there to be too much time before we open the doors."
The announcement of the sale and a larger Fred's location comes on the heels of the announcement that Kmart will be closing its "Big K" store on March 21. Mayor Shell said customers from Kmart should find little problems in transitioning to a larger Fred's store.
"I think the Kmart customers will be eager to shop here," he said. "This building has been vacant for a number of years, but fortunately Barbara Turberville has worked hard to make this happen.
"Everything from this will be a positive. I like to think this is the start of some good things for Atmore."
Turberville said negotiations with Summit began about three weeks ago, and that Fred's was a part of the negotiations from the start.
Shell said that residents need to shop at the store and with other merchants, even before the store opens, as it will only benefit residents of the city.
"People need to understand that sales taxes are turned right back into the city in the form of services provided to residents," Shell said. "That makes it even more important for people to not only shop at this new store, but to continue to shop with all of the local merchants."
Williams said the current Fred's location will be closed, but that filling that void shouldn't be a problem.
"Usually, at least with my experiences, what happens is that once a Fred's closes a location to move into a bigger store, there is normally a tenant that follows right behind it into the old location," he said. "And, if that doesn't happen, then Fred's normally sub-leases it or works out some type of arrangement. I don't think anyone is going to be going to the bank needing money because they can't fill that old spot."
Larger Fred's Stores tend to offer more merchandise, including a full line of clothing, including a specialty line of children's clothing called Fred's Kids. In addition, name-brand products will be offered in addition to furniture, tools and hardware and other items.
Williams said the new store will feature a full-scale pharmacy with a drive-in window. Williams said a pharmacist has been chosen, but that he couldn't release the name at this time.
Summit Properties, LLC, is a development company that specializes in bringing national tenants to small-town America, Williams said.
"We have been successful by using quality, upscale construction in a community environment," he said. "By using these methods, we build customer loyalty and most importantly create jobs."