Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"New Wal-Mart a big boost for Bush River Road"

Here's some news about you won't read TV Reed in a letter to the editor. From the July 15 issue of the The State (Columbia, SC)
’The new Bush River Road Wal-Mart Supercenter has given that area a much needed retail boost.

More than a dozen shops and eateries have opened nearby since the Wal-Mart near the Interstate 26 exit opened in May.

Even competitors are impressed.

“It should bring more customers,” said Stan Gomes manager of a Kmart store a mile away on Arrowwood Road.

Local retail analysts have not considered the Bush River area near the Richland and Lexington county lines a prime location for retailers or shoppers in recent years.

Before Wal-Mart, the 225,000-square-foot Bush River Mall sat in its place. The mall’s last tenant, a Target store, closed in 1998.

And Dutch Square Center, just a mile away from the new Wal-Mart, lost its spot as a top shopping destination beginning in the 1970s when newer malls opened in faster-growing areas of Columbia. A center manager said in May that she hoped the new Supercenter would re-energize nearby merchants.

All along Bush River, from its intersection with Broad River Road to Outlet Pointe Boulevard, traffic has been in a steep decline for the past decade.

Daily car counts in front of Dutch Square Center have fallen 40 percent since 1997, according to research from commercial real estate firm Colliers Keenan.

And the median income for households within two miles of the Wal-Mart that was 15 percent above the metro norm in 1980 is now 13 percent less, according to the Central Midlands Council of Governments.

Little new retail construction has come to the Broad River Road and Saint Andrews areas because they had few desirable sites, said Ben Johnson, research manager for the Grubb & Ellis office in Columbia.

The area’s most active shopping centers had been the Boozer Shopping Center and the Colonial Village across from Dutch Square, according to Colliers Keenan researcher Ryan Hyler. These recently updated centers, which house a mix of independent shops and restaurants, are at or near full occupancy but are too small to attract major retailers.

“So having the Wal-Mart move in,” Johnson added, “is a really good sign.”

Last year, the remaining buildings of the Bush River Mall were torn down to make way for a 203,819-square-footWal-Mart Supercenter.

“A lot of people were glad to see the old vacant buildings gone,” said Dee High manger of the new Wal-Mart.

The Supercenter has helped attract nearly a dozen new shops and an eatery into retail center that Wal-Mart anchors — including Cato’s, It’s Fashion! Dots Fashion, Shoe Show, Sally’s Beauty Supply Store and Tokyo Grill.

Plus, the long-vacant space of a former Office Max store that neighbored the Kmart on Arrowwood has been leased to Remington College, a Florida-based technical school.

And there’s talk that Dutch Square Center could go through a major makeover next year.

In recent years, the area “was truly an underserved retail market," said Andrew Simmons with the Central Midlands Council of Governments.

Despite lower traffic numbers, Wal-Mart saw promise in the Bush River Road area because the area’s residential growth, said Ryan Hyler, director of research and marketing for Colliers Keenan in Columbia.

The population within a two-mile radius of the Wal-Mart store on Bush River Road is up 8 percent since 2000 to 30,000 people, said Hyler, who used U.S. Census data. That’s about the same growth as the Columbia metro area overall.

“There is a dense population, (and) it’s your grocery-store type,” said Hyler, referring to the area’s mix of older adults and families.

Just right for Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest grocer, to arrive and perk up the area, he said.
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