Abandoned buildings could offer opportunity

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The city’s vacant commercial buildings are a sign of the changing times.
Hollywood Video closed in 2009 and sat empty for several weeks until a real estate developer turned it into a shopping strip.
The center on West Main Street now is home to Cellular South, Christy’s Hamburgers and an insurance office.
While the vacancies may be a temporary eyesore and reminder of what once was, they create opportunities for other businesses.
Tupelo is home to several success stories of repurposed buildings. City Planner Pat Falkner makes special note of the former Food World location on South Gloster that now is home to North Mississippi Hematology & Oncology Associates.
“They took that property and did an awful lot with that,” Falkner said. “That’s one that’s kind of our poster child for successful reuse.”
Other reuses include Burger King’s transformation into Tellini’s, McDuff’s transformation into Chuck E. Cheese’s, Captain D’s transformation into Los Potrillos and Ace Hardware’s transformation into the Magnolia Business Centre.

Wooing industry
The Community Development Foundation sees the vacant buildings as a major plus when trying to woo an industrial business.
“Having these available industrial buildings on the market is a key recruiting tool to get new clients here,” said Greg Giachelli, vice president of economic development. “You’ve already got a product there and it’s already good to go.”
Giachelli said many clients are looking for an existing building when they move or expand because their timeline doesn’t allow for major construction.
The vacant building inventory puts Tupelo ahead of the game, Giachelli said, because other cities are having to build so-called spec buildings, which are constructed without a tenant.
The Block Corp. is a large industrial building that’s currently vacant. Hancock Fabrics used the building as its headquarters until the fabric company moved to Baldwyn in 2004.
Block Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection in April 2009 and the building emptied out shortly after that. Phillip Carpenter of Jackson-based Carpenter Properties has been hired to sell the property. It previously was listed for more than $3 million. Carpenter said he had a few bites, including one from a Toyota supplier. The interest cooled after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Then, the building went on the auction block. There was a successful bidder, Carpenter said, but the bidder has failed to follow through. Now, the owners are determining what to do with the building.
The vacant McDonald’s location is a source of discussion as well. The building at the intersection of South Gloster and Robert E. Lee became vacant when Hudson Management Corp. opened a new location further south.
McDonald’s Corp. owns the land and building of the former location.
“We are now in the process of analyzing what is in the best interest of the community long term for the site on Gloster Street,” said Steven Hunter with McDonald’s USA.
Hunter said owners will meet this week to discuss the future of the building.
Cohen Realty of Memphis is working on the vacant building across the street – Blockbuster. The building became vacant last month after Twin States Video closed the business. Cohen now is trying to find a rental tenant.
In general, former fast food locations and Walmart locations stay vacant longer than most other commercial buildings, Falkner said.
“Hotels are a little bit hard,” Falkner said. “They tend to circle down the market till they reach the bottom.”
He cited the former Quality Inn, which has been vacant for more than a year at the intersection of McCullough Boulevard and North Gloster Street.
“It’s hard to find any other use for a building like that,” he said.
The city rarely has to demolish a vacant building, Falkner said, and instead relies on businesses to come full circle.
“In every economy, there’s going to be some failures,” Falkner said. “Usually, the market finds another use for them. It just takes time.”

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@journalinc.com.