Retail beginning to take hold on Michigan Road: Browning eyes 100 acres for retail or mixed-use

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Browning Investments Inc. has nearly 100 acres under contract in the rapidly growing Michigan Road retail corridor.

The locally based developer hasn’t yet cemented plans for the land, but they could include purely retail or a mixeduse development with multifamily, flex/office and retail components, said Vice President of Development James W. Browning.

Most retail on the site would likely be highway-oriented, such as hotels or outlets of national chain restaurants, he said.

The parcel, under contract from various owners, lies just west of Michigan Road and immediately north of Interstate 465. The land is just east of Tiffany Lawn and Garden-recognizable by its mountain of mulch-and contractor Gradex Inc.

Browning wouldn’t disclose financial details of the land deal.

A thin strip of land connects the parcel to Michigan Road near the former Dollar Inn, which closed late last year after operator Carl Ritchie sold the property. Orlando, Fla.-based CNL Restaurant Properties Inc. now owns a 10-acre parcel including the former hotel, and plans to lease it to three or four national chain restaurants, one of which would be a Cracker Barrel, local sources said.

CNL representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

Together, the two parcels represent one of the largest land deals inside the I-465 loop in recent years and reflect growing interest in the northwest-side corridor.

Michigan Road north of 86th Street has long had, thanks to College Park and the Pyramids, a strong office base that has supported several hotels in the area. But retail has had mixed results. Floridabased Darden Restaurants Inc. in the late 1990s closed three of its concepts along the corridor, citing a lack of dinner and weekend traffic.

In 2003, Michigan-based Kmart Corp. closed its store just north of 86th Street in a wave of 12 local store closures connected with its bankruptcy filing.

Kmart notwithstanding, developers and retailers have shown new interest in the area between 86th and 106th streets since a lengthy construction project on the road and I-465 interchange was completed in mid-2003. Road improvements and a growing residential base to the north in western Hamilton and southern Boone counties has also drawn businesses, local experts said.

“There have been some vacancies… but I think this area is going through an upward swing and it’s only going to get better,” said Frank Swiss, owner of The Swiss Group, a local commercial real estate brokerage.

The Kmart remains vacant after a few stalled attempts at redevelopment, but a former Cub Foods just south of 86th Street was recently purchased by Columbus, Ohio-based Big Lots Inc., and a former OfficeMax building now houses a Salvation Army store.

Washington-based Costco Wholesale Corp. opened a warehouse club on the west side of Michigan Road in 2002, taking down the empty Darden restaurants in the process.

Owners of the Holiday Inn Select on the east side of Michigan Road recently invested several million dollars in a renovation that included the addition of a 30,000-square-foot indoor water park called Caribbean Cove.

General Hotels considered some of its other properties around the state for an indoor water park, but ultimately decided the access and visibility of the Holiday Inn Select couldn’t be matched, said Tim Worthington, president and chief operating officer of locally based General Hotels Corp., which manages the hotel.

North of the Hamilton County line at 96th Street, the growth has been even more pronounced. Cornfields and a smattering of small commercial buildings have given way to big-box retail development.

Marsh Supermarkets was the first to stake a claim in the area with a grocery store on the northeast corner of 106th Street and Michigan Road opened in 1999, followed by SuperTarget on the south side of 106th Street in 2001.

Locally based Duke Realty Corp. has also begun construction on West Carmel Marketplace, a 350,000-square-foot planned center on 64 acres just south of the SuperTarget. Marshalls, a TJX Cos. brand, has signed a lease for a 33,000-square-foot store in the center.

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