A major player in the Richmond grocery wars is eyeing a long-abandoned Northside mall property.
Grocery giant Martin’s is looking into building a store at the former Azalea Mall site at Dumbarton Road and Azalea Avenue. It’s a preliminary sign of life for the 49-acre slab of overgrown concrete that housed the mall from its opening in 1963 until its demolition 15 years ago.
And, if all goes according to plan, Martin’s is just the beginning for the site.
Real estate company Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer recently published drawings depicting the potential grocery store as the anchor of a town center with 301,000 square feet of retail and 200 residential units. The development is dubbed Azalea Square.
The drawings show an 84,000-square-foot Martin’s at the northwest corner of the dormant property.
Atlanta-based Dewberry Capital owns the Azalea Mall site, which covers 39 acres in Henrico County and about nine more near the Richmond city line. The company bought the property in 1998 and had the mall razed in 1999.
Chris Brand, a spokesman for Martin’s parent company Ahold, confirmed the grocery brand’s interest in the Azalea site.
Several messages left for Dewberry chief executive John Dewberry and executive vice president of project finance Douglas Dewberry were not returned by press time.
Thalhimer broker Pete Waldbauer is marketing the complex, although he is not involved with negotiations on the potential Martin’s store. He said that the planned shops surrounding the would-be Martin’s have drawn some interest and that an anchor tenant could spur development at the Azalea property.
“The site has probably the second-best demographics, as far as population density goes, in the [Richmond Metro area],” he said. “We are having pretty good luck getting initial interest from various retailers, and, as this kind of comes together, interest will solidify.”
If and when the plans get out of the ground, the Azalea location would be the second store Martin’s has built in the Richmond area since it bought into the market in 2010 by gobbling up 25 Ukrop’s grocery stores.
Martin’s in 2012 announced plans to build its first new local store and has begun work on a 74,000-square-foot location at Charter Colony Parkway and Midlothian Turnpike.
That store will replace a Martin’s at Sycamore Square, which is about a half-mile away from Charter Colony Parkway. The Sycamore Square store will close the day before the new location opens.
The brand closed its store at the Gayton Crossing shopping center in late 2013.
Another Martin’s sits less than a mile from Azalea Square in the Brook Run Shopping Center. Brand would not comment on what an Azalea Martin’s might mean for the 48,000-square-foot Brook Run location.
Virginia Beach-based Wheeler Interests owns and operates Brook Run Shopping Center. Wheeler broker George Fox said that he is confident a number of retail concepts could slide into the Martin’s space if the store shut down but that there isn’t any firm indication of a Martin’s departure.
“We have had conversations with Martin’s about their long-term plan. They have not given us any type of termination notice,” he said.
Martin’s isn’t the only area grocery giant in expansion mode. Since 2012, Kroger has announced plans to bring Richmond three of its Marketplace stores, 100,000-square-foot retailers that also feature non-grocery items such as furniture and kitchen supplies.
The first, a 123,000-square-foot store at Chesterfield County’s Stonebridge, opened in December 2012. Similar stores at Rutland Commons and Staples Mill are in the works. In September 2013, Kroger announced plans for its 18th Richmond area store at the site of the Colonial Heights Courthouse.
Martin’s took over the top spot among Richmond grocery stores in 2013 with a 16.67 percent market share, according to trade publication Food World. Food Lion dropped from number one, coming in second with a 15.82 percent market share. Walmart and Kroger came in third and fourth, respectively.