Raleigh firm snaps up prime Wilmington retail pads
June 21, 2012By J. Elias O'Neal
A Raleigh developer looking to bring national retail tenants to the Port City has secured two parcels of property for future development.
Rob Hicks, a developer with Raleigh-based PhDevelopment, said his firm closed on the former El Agave Restaurant property located at 3803 Oleander Drive on Tuesday and plans to construct Wilmington’s second Mattress Firm at that location.
Plans call for the closed restaurant to be demolished on the site and replaced with a new 4,500-square-foot retail store.
Hicks said his firm is currently conducting surveys of the site, and is working with the city to determine setbacks, parking spaces and design. He said his firm, which has specialized in small outparcel and niche retail development since the 1980s, began targeting Wilmington after realizing the lack of available retail space along its burgeoning retail corridors.
"There’s not a lot of raw vacant land," Hicks said of Wilmington. "So we’re finding outparcel space to create new opportunities and make it work."
Many of his firm’s clients include national retailers such as AT&T, Starbucks, Guitar Center and Vitamin Shoppe.
Hicks’ firm is no stranger to the Wilmington market.
PhDevelopment successfully completed the construction of an AT&T store in 2010 on former outparcel space that once housed a Checker Burger franchise at the corner of College Road and New Centre Drive in the University Centre shopping plaza. He added his firm is also developing retail outparcels in Jacksonville, Fayetteville and Lumberton.
His firm also placed outparcel property in the Best Buy parking lot fronting College Road under contract last week.
Hicks said preliminary plans call for the outparcel to be developed into a 5,000 to 7,500-square-foot shopping center that could house three new retail tenants, pending city approval and subdivision of the property.
"We’re going through the process now," Hicks said. "Everything is subject to change . . . we’re trying to see if it’s going to work out."
Hicks said a number of retailers are ready to locate franchises and stores in the city’s retail market because of its high concentration of retail clusters, a diverse spending demographic and traffic counts.
"A lot of our business is tenant-driven right now," Hicks said. "When we finished building the AT&T store, that’s when we noticed the need and we’re trying to address it."