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TMCNet:  Shoppers flood Alamance Crossing

[August 02, 2007]

Shoppers flood Alamance Crossing

(Times-News (Burlington, NC) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Aug. 2--Alamance Crossing was hoping to make a big splash with its grand opening Wednesday.

Judging by the crowd it did.

A small brass band played at the ribbon cutting. Another played at the Dillard's grand opening and a bagpipe band seemed to be everywhere. Meanwhile there were enough shoppers, including a gang or two of moms with strollers, on hand to crowd the sidewalks.

That's good news to county and city leaders.

They are hoping the huge open-air mall that resembles a city streetscape makes an even bigger splash on the local economy Developer CBL & Associates says it will generate 1,500 jobs along with $200 million in sales a year, which would bring in $8.5 million in sales taxes.

Those are, of course, estimates.

Burlington City Manager Harold Owen did not want to give an estimate of his own.

"We'll have to see in a year," Owen said. "We know it will be good." Owen said it will also take time to see what the new mall's net property and sales tax impact will be, since the property hasn't been assessed and two of its anchors are moving from Burlington Square Mall a couple of miles away.

It's the same story with the 1,500 people who are supposed to be working at Alamance Crossing when all is said and done.

Some of those jobs are already here.

Belk, for example, is moving from Burlington Square Mall, to a larger store in Alamance Crossing, said store representative, Richard Habib. He did not say how many more jobs that would mean.

Jobs at the mall will cover the spectrum, Owen said, from part-time retail jobs to modest service jobs to six-figure management jobs.

Local leaders are trumpeting them as a real benefit to the county, even if they are not the industrial jobs the county was used to a generation ago.

"These are real jobs," Mayor Stephen Ross told the crowd.

And having the stores just off the I-85/40 corridor means the benefits of all this commerce will be here rather than Greensboro or Durham where people from Burlington have traditionally shopped in the past, Ross said.

Retailers seem pretty interested in Alamance Crossing.

The mall has leases or commitments for 90 percent of its first 660,000-square-foot phase, CBL's senior vice president for development, Mark Mancuso, told the crowd at the ribbon cutting.

About 350,000 square feet of store, including anchors Dillard's and JC Penney, opened Wednesday.

William Dillard III, grandson of the founder of Dillard's Department Stores, left Little Rock, Ark., at the crack of dawn Wednesday to visit his company's newest store and was present at Alamance Crossing. Dillard's operates 339 stores in 29 states. The company has $7.7 billion in sales. Nic Trivedi, the Dillard's store manager, said Dillard doesn't attend many store openings. He wanted to see the new streetscape de sign at Alamance Crossing.

Dillard said he wanted to know where people in Ala mance County worked and what constitutes the base of the local economy.

BELK PLANS TO open in mid October, Habib said, after closing its Burlington Square store Sept. 8. He said the gap will not look great on the bal ance sheet, but he expects things to bounce back as Christmas shopping gets start ed in earnest.

Habib said Belk could actu ally benefit from not yet being open at Alamance Crossing.

While competitor Dillard's is getting a rush of business with the grand opening, Belk will move in when all the kinks have been worked out.

For instance, work contin ues on rerouting sections of St. Marks Church Road and Boone Station Drive. The drive is the shopping center's eastern entrance and links to St. Marks Church Road and University Drive on the west side of Alamance Crossing.

Before Belk opens, work will start on the smaller second phase, almost 200,000 square feet, called Alamance East.

CBL owns about 80 million square feet of retail in about 120 properties around the country, including five in North Carolina. This type of open-air mall is fairly new for the company. CBL has only been building them for about two years, Mancuso said.

Mancuso said this is sometimes called a "lifestyle center," because of the variety of retail, restaurants and the large movie theater scheduled to open next year. The center is also a draw for hotels making it something like a mixeduse development.

Alamance Crossing is the biggest example of the direction of the county's economy is taking these days. As the economy loses textiles and there are fewer industrial jobs, more of the local economy depends on retailers along Interstate 85/40.

To see more of the Times-News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.thetimesnews.com.
Copyright (c) 2007, Times-News, Burlington, N.C.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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