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TowneBank will join Harris Teeter at redeveloped Wards Corner

October 12, 2012

Reported in: Inside Business´╗┐

By Lydia Wheeler 

A new branch for TowneBank will fill space in front of the Harris Teeter grocery store planned for Wards Corner in Norfolk. 

Developer Chris Perry, president of Suburban Asset Management, said TowneBank will build a branch on the out-parcel of land along Granby Street. The grocery store and now the bank will be part of the redeveloped Suburban Park Shopping Center on the southeast corner of the neighborhood. 

Though still in the early design stages, Keith Horton, TowneBank senior executive vice president, said the plan is to build a free-standing retail branch of about 4,500 to 5,000 square feet. It will have an ATM, drive-through teller and night deposit station. 

Construction, Horton said, will follow the construction timeline of Harris Teeter, expected to begin in April.  

TowneBank chose Wards Corner for its new retail branch location, Horton said, because of the redevelopment happening there. 

“It completes our market for Norfolk,” he said. “It fills a gap in the Hampton Roads community.”

TowneBank will lease the acre parcel from Perry’s company, which is spending $18 million to $20 million redeveloping the shopping center. 

TowneBank, founded in April 1999, has 26 bank branches from Williamsburg to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The branch location closest to Wards Corner is in Harbor’s Edge, a retirement community on Colley Avenue near downtown Norfolk.  

Horton hopes to open the Wards Corner location at the same time the Harris Teeter debuts, in early summer 2014. The 53,000-square-foot grocery store will have a total of 10 shops on either side that add 20,000 square feet to the strip.

“Letters of intent have been signed on nine of the 10 store spaces,” Perry said. 

Though he would not disclose any of his potential tenants, Perry did say none of the lease agreements are for less than five years. 

Now that A.J. Gators Sports Bar & Grill has been demolished, Perry said demolition of the bigger building, which once housed Dollar Tree, Subway and Ben Cooper Jewelers, will begin in three to five weeks, once asbestos abatement is complete.

Down the road, Farm Fresh is finishing upgrades to its store on Little Creek Road. The grocery chain spent close to $2 million remodeling the interior, said Leonard Provost, a senior manager of project management and construction with Supervalu, the parent company of the Farm Fresh grocery chain.  

The store expanded its wine and beer department, installed a bigger salad bar, upgraded its lighting to LED, energy-saving lights and installed new meat cases.  

Contrary to popular belief, Provost said the upgrades were planned long before Harris Teeter announced it was opening a store in Wards Corner.

Farm Fresh is also hoping to construct a one-lane drive-through for its pharmacy on the left side of the store. 

Provost said plans will go before the city planning commission later this month.

Across Little Creek Road, in the northeast quadrant of Wards Corner, the Midtown Shopping Center is nearing completion on its $1.2 million exterior upgrade. Mike Norment, vice president of Midtown Development Corp., which owns the plaza, said the façade and architectural improvements that began in April will be finished in about three to four weeks. 

“We’re a little behind schedule,” he said. 

Norment said national retailers are showing interest in the property. He would not name the retailers.

The Midtown plaza was built in 1946 by Norment’s uncle, Alexander Martone. His uncle saw a need for a shopping center in the mid-Atlantic like the great ones he’d seen in South Florida and New York. 

“[Wards corner] was known as the Times Square of the South,” he said. 

Today, however, the area is seen much differently, as most of the storefronts sit vacant. 

Having lived in the area for the last seven years, Martin Thomas Jr., vice president of the Wards Corner Civic League and Norfolk Planning Commission member, said he is eager to see the former retail hub live up to its potential. 

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