Smyrna set to get giant Kroger

It took five years, but a shuttered retail strip in Smyrna is about to get new life. Once anchored by a Winn Dixie grocery store, the center will soon get one of the Atlanta region’s largest Kroger stores, plus a Kroger gas station and a major face lift.

The project stalled during the recession, said Hugh Robinson, executive vice president for Westchester, Ill.-based Tri-Land Properties Inc.

“The economy has not been conducive to a lot of commercial real estate development,” he said.

But he believes the remodeled center called The Crossings at Four Corners at South Cobb Drive and Concord Road will have some major advantages: The volume of customers shopping at the Walmart-sized Kroger will invite smaller retailersto the busy intersection.

Retail strips nearby are mixed. Some are new and full of new shops; others are aging and appear to struggle. One across the street caters to discount stores such as Citi Trends, Dollar General and Goodwill.

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“Our primary business for the last 25 years is acquiring old run-down centers and redeveloping them,” Robinson said.

Leasing will begin in earnest closer to the date the Kroger will open, he said, but he is optimistic because his phone is ringing.

The project is moving forward with zoning approval from Smyrna and construction financing from Cole Taylor of Chicago. And Kroger Co. bought 8 acres of the Tri-Land property to build its second 93,000-square-foot store in the Atlanta market. It and the Sugar Hill store that opened in November will be the largest Kroger has in the region, said Glynn Jenkins, a spokesman for Kroger's Atlanta division. Kroger has about 140 stores here. The Smyrna store is set to open in 2012.

The new store means Kroger will move out of a 28-year-old, 42,000-square-foot store across the street.

When completed, the Smyrna shopping center will have eight outparcels, a 25,000-square-foot pad for another anchor next to Kroger, and 60,000 square feet for smaller retailers.

Tri-Land hasn’t been so lucky with a strip it also bought five years ago in Conyers called Salem Gate, Robinson said. It is half full and not yet remodeled.

This has not been the season for new grocery stores in metro Atlanta. Instead, there have been high profile closings. BJ’s announced this week, for example, that it will close three Atlanta stores.

The Smyrna center was built around 1971, Robinson believes. Tri-Land bought it in 1996 from Atlanta investor Lee Najjar, known for his association as “Big Poppa” with Bravo reality TV series “Real Housewives of Atlanta” Kim Zolciak. The property was not distressed, and still had tenants, which Tri-Land eventually removed for the redevelopment.

Najjar was in the news this week because he gave Union Station (formerly Shannon) Mall in Union City back to his lender.

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