Developer in deal to buy mall, former Kroger

Published 12:05 pm Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pemberton Square mall and a nearby structure formerly used by Kroger are in the process of being purchased by a Houston-based retail developer, who said Tuesday his plan is to breathe new life into the properties with aggressive advertising and some new tenants.

Andy Weiner, president of Weiner Development, won approval from the Vicksburg Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday to replace the existing 30-foot sign behind the current Kroger building with a 75-foot sign advertising Kroger and businesses at the mall.

“I have both properties under contract. I have not purchased them yet,” Weiner told the board. “My goal is to redevelop both properties. We have a turnaround plan that’s going to take two to three years.”

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Weiner said the purchase of the properties hinges on approval of the sign — which at 750-square-feet more than doubles the size allowed by ordinance. The sign, he said, would help pull traffic off nearby Interstate 20.

“There’s a lot more dimensions to the turnaround strategy for the mall, but signage, in my opinion, is No. 1,” he said, adding both deals could be completed by September. “Because Pemberton mall is not on Interstate 20 or Highway 61, many tourists simply don’t know it’s there and they end up going to Jackson or Monroe.”

The zoning board has denied large signs that measure larger than the 260-square-feet allowed by ordinance, but Zoning Administrator Dalton McCar-ty said the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen frequently have approved them on appeal. He cited the large signs outside Walmart SuperCenter and The Home Depot as examples, among others.

Weiner said his agreement with Kroger for its former building — located across the street from the current store at 2408 Pemberton Square Blvd. — allows for the replacement of the sign behind the grocery store.

A computer rendering showed a large Kroger logo atop smaller spaces for businesses in the mall. Weiner said the sign might also feature signboards for new tenants of the former Kroger building once it’s redeveloped.

Board members Tim Fagerburg, Fred Katzenmeyer, Warren Jones and Tommie Rawlings approved the sign unanimously.

Following the meeting, Weiner said the sign will go up in the weeks following closing on the deal. He declined to discuss any specific plans for the mall or former Kroger building until the paperwork is completed, but said new tenants are likely. The purchase will not include any of the properties in the strip mall adjacent to the former Kroger building, he added.

Anchored by Belk, Dillard’s and J.C. Penney department stores, the 25-year-old Pemberton Square mall is owned by CBL & Associates Inc. of Chattanooga, Tenn., which in February reduced its valuation of the retail area from $7.1 million to $1.4 million. Warren County values the property at $4.8 million for taxing purposes.

The former Kroger building has been vacant since November 2008, and is owned by the grocery store chain, Weiner said.

According to Weiner Development’s website, the company has shopping center holdings in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. From 1984 to 1997, Weiner managed all operations for Weiner Stores, a chain of 159 clothing stores in Texas and Louisiana.