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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
276-638-8801
Toll Free: 800-234-6575

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Sports store coming
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Construction at Liberty Fair Mall is underway. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dunham’s Sports, a big-box sporting goods store chain, plans to open a store at Liberty Fair Mall in Martinsville as part of the shopping complex’s redevelopment, an official with the mall’s owner confirmed Tuesday.

John Mulherin, vice president of government relations for Hull Storey Gibson Companies LLC, said plans are for Dunham’s to occupy a 44,000 square-foot storefront next to Marshalls. The space is expected to be ready for the store to move in by the Christmas shopping season, he said.

Hull Storey Gibson aims to turn the mall into a traditional shopping center — one in which all stores’ entrances open to the outdoors instead of an interior hallway — with six to 10 retail spaces by June, Mulherin said.

The number of storefronts developed will be determined by amounts of floor space sought by retailers with which the firm enters into leases, he said.

The goal is to have all storefronts filled within two years, Mulherin added.

Construction on Dunham’s space is occurring. Kris Bridges, a deputy building official for the city, confirmed that the retailer was issued a building permit.

Dunham’s has advertised in the Martinsville Bulletin that it is seeking to hire employees for a local store. However, company executives have not returned phone calls made by the newspaper to Dunham’s headquarters in Troy, Mich.

According to its website, Dunham’s has more than 200 stores in 18 states in the South and Midwest. The store sells sporting goods, athletic equipment and sports-related clothing and footwear.

The nearest existing Dunham’s stores are in Burlington and Asheboro, N.C., the website shows. Hull Storey Gibson officials have said Dunham’s also plans to open a store at Danville Mall, which Hull Storey Gibson also owns.

Mulherin said Hull Storey Gibson is continuing lease negotiations with current Liberty Fair tenants and prospective ones. He said he is not fully up to date on negotiations but the company will not discuss them out of concern for other developers potentially trying to attract them to other properties.

Hull Storey Gibson aims to recruit only “first class,” nationally-known stores to the redeveloped mall, he said. That way, customers will be more likely to visit the retailers and spend money with them, ensuring that the shopping center will be successful in the long run, he said.

“We’re not going to put in any shlock tenants” just to fill the storefronts, even if it means taking longer to fully redevelop the center, Mulherin said.

He pledged that Hull Storey Gibson is committed to the project and will complete the center’s redevelopment due to its investments so far.

Hull Storey Gibson bought the mall, which has lost many tenants in recent years, for an undisclosed price in 2012. Mulherin said the company plans to spend $4 million to redevelop Liberty Fair into a traditional shopping center. That includes $2 million being spent on recent demolition work, he said.

The concept of an interior mall no longer was viable for Martinsville because people’s shopping habits have changed over the years, said Matt Matson, an associate legal counsel for Hull Storey Gibson.

“I understand that it was painful for people to see the bulldozers” that recently have torn down much of the mall, Mulherin said.

But within the retail real estate industry, he said, Liberty Fair had become “a degradated, busted mall.”

“We’ve got to bust that image” in order to get prominent chain retailers to come to the redeveloped complex, he said.

Doing that involves convincing them to take a chance on being part of the small Martinsville-Henry County retail market, Mulherin said. A major part of the process, he said, is being able to offer them reduced-price leases.

Hull Storey Gibson asked Martinsville City Council on Tuesday for help along that line, but the council denied the firm’s request. (See related story.)

 

 
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