A regional warehouse retailer has bought nearly three acres at a Lexington site that is slated for major redevelopment.
Florence-based Tomlinson’s purchased a sliver of the 70-acre tract along Sunset Boulevard that developers have touted as a mixed-use project that will feature a mix of apartments, retail, restaurants and a movie theater.
It is the first inked deal for the site, one of the most significant pieces of undeveloped land close to the town of Lexington. Development at the site – about two miles west of I-20 along U.S. 378, and formerly home to the Corley Lumber Mill – has undergone a series of stops and starts in the past seven years.
Efforts to reach the Rock Hill-based developer, Tony Berry, were unsuccessful Tuesday.
But Ben Kelly, who is marketing the site through the NAI Avant commercial real estate firm, said he has nine more acres under contract and expects to be able to make formal announcements in the first three months of next year. Kelly said apartments, retail and a movie theater are still in plans for the site.
A different developer originally bought the site, plus 100 additional acres, in 2007 with an eye toward a major development. But plans fell through as the worst recession in eight decades disrupted growth nationwide. A second developer also dropped its plans as the economy struggled to recover.
Berry has said he will take his time to transform the site in stages. He made no promises on how long it will take to complete build-out of the site, but he previously had said he planned to start work this past spring.
So far, however, Tomlinson’s is the only company that has committed to building there. Store owners say it will be a couple of years before the outlet opens.
“We have no timetable as to when we will begin construction,” said Fred Cannon, treasurer for the 80-year-old chain of stores. Tomlinson’s, which sells a mix of apparel, housewares, gifts and collegiate items, has nine stores in South Carolina and North Carolina, mainly along the coast.
The chain says it is able to keep its prices low because of its minimal overhead. Stores have a warehouse feel with concrete floors and basic fixtures, Cannon said. The Lexington store will be about 28,000 square feet and similar in layout to the company’s North Myrtle Beach outlet, Cannon said.
The Lexington site appealed to the company because of the availability of land and the traffic on busy U.S. 378. Also, the model of being in a bedroom community to a larger city worked well for the retailer with its Summerville outlet, Cannon said.
“We grow slowly,” he said. “We try to fund our growth from retained profits.”
The store will be on an outparcel at the site and is not the major anchor that would be expected to usher in more development, Lexington Mayor Steve MacDougall said.
MacDougall said he doesn’t see the site proceeding “until they find an anchor.”
Tim Flach contributed.