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More stores coming to SouthPoint Mall

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

The addition of eight new stores, and at least one restaurant at the still-expanding SouthPoint Mall in McDonough, is expected to generate more than 200 jobs for Henry County's economy.

The development is currently anchored by a J.C. Penney and a Kohl's department store. Other retailers committed to opening at the mall include Toys 'R' Us/Babies 'R' Us, Hobby Lobby, Haverty's Furniture, Shoe Carnival, Rooms To Go, Party City, a stand-alone AT&T store, a Mexican restaurant and a high-end diamond jewelry store.

In addition to planned restaurants and offices, the mall also will include 600,000 square feet of retail space.

Jim Baker, Chief Executive Officer of SouthPoint Retail Partners, said negotiations are underway for a Carabba's Italian restaurant, although the commitment from Carabba's is not finalized. "We're hoping to be able to finalize that in the near future."

The initial opening date of some stores has been changed from January, to late 2009 or 2010.

"We're working feverishly to get things done," said Baker. "Some people are more ready than others."

Current construction at the mall site also include a full-service, four-story 110-room Hilton Hotel.

According to Rawson Haverty, whose family owns Haverty's Furniture, the store has signed a lease with SouthPoint Retail Partners. The design of the 35,000-square-foot furniture store has already been planned, and management expects the new store to do well at the location. "We've done all our preliminary work. It's highly probable it's going to work out. We believe it will be highly successful. I'm excited about the site."

Haverty declined to give a specific timeline of the retail outlet opening at SouthPoint because the slow economy, which is a critical factor. However, he added that when planning for the future, the furniture store is constantly looking for likely places to expand in the next five to 10 years. The decision to open at SouthPoint was influenced by co-tenants already in the development, and the quality of life in Henry County.

Other future tenants are also optimistic they will do well at SouthPoint.

According to Vince Parker, Director of Training and Customer Service for Hobby Lobby, their 55,000-square-foot store is scheduled to open in the mall next year. "We're going to take possession of that spot in February," said Parker. "We're hoping to open in late summer."

Hobby Lobby's decision to open at SouthPoint was based on market surveys to determine the most profitable place for retail sales. Henry County attracted their attention because of its potential.

"We felt that market was underserved, and we feel that this is a great opportunity to be there," he added.

Parker attributed the county's growing population thus far, and its projected future growth, for store management decision to open in Henry County.

According to Liz Whiteside, Senior Vice President for Staubach Retail, additional stores have shown interest in opening at SouthPoint. "We're still signing new deals every day. Retailers have to grow," said Whiteside.

She declined to name any specific stores considering moving into the development, but added that the mall is in a prime spot because of good roads and continued growth in the housing market. "It's an attractive location for many retailers."

Whiteside said compared to its other stores in the region, sales at the J.C. Penney and Kohl's store at SouthPoint are above average.

Mike Carnathan, a researcher with the Atlanta Regional Commission, said from a regional point of view the construction is encouraging. Vacancy rates for retail buildings have been increasing, but he said this development goes against the trend.

"For SouthPoint to get tenants is a good sign," said Carnathan.

Carnathan said that metro Atlanta has lost 45,000 jobs in the past year, so the construction at the McDonough mall is positive. "Any new jobs are good jobs."