DeKALB – After eight years away, Old Navy is returning to DeKalb, and will make its home at the former Barnes & Noble site at 2439 Sycamore Road in the Oakland Place shopping center.
"We are certainly very excited about this," said Paul Shand, director of retail properties with Mid-America Management Corporation based in Cleveland, Ohio. "We have been working on that lease for about a year now. I think Old Navy knew it was a good market for them, they performed well when they were here. It made sense for them to add a store in a market they'd already known and was proven it was the best shopping center in the market."
Shand said the lease will begin in the summer and Old Navy plans to open its doors about back-to-school season.
"Certainly before the holiday season, but their target is to be around [for] back to school," Shand said.
Old Navy's former location was between Michael's and T.J. Maxx. The store left in February 2012, after 10 years at that location inside the Oakland Place shopping center. The former Old Navy site has been divided into two spaces and now houses Five Below and DSW.
Dan Olson, principal planner for the city of DeKalb, said Old Navy will not have to go through the city's Planning and Zoning Commission since the space is already zoned for commercial use. He said they've applied for a building permit which has not yet been approved.
Shand said the former Barnes & Noble, which closed in 2014 and has since been temporary Halloween stores, will be divided into two separate spaces to lease, Old Navy will use 12,500 square feet of it for their store, and then Mid-America will look to lease the remaining 7,000 square feet to another retailer.
Old Navy's former space in DeKalb was almost twice that size at 20,000 square feet, Shand said.
"Old Navy will have a new storefront, so it won't look like Barnes & Noble anymore," he said.
The Oakland Place Shopping Center is losing Pier 1 Imports and Hallmark at the end of the month, but Shand said he's hopeful for the future of the strip mall, which Mid-America has owned since October 2004.
The shopping and eatery options along both side of Sycamore Road have changed over the years, as big box stores struggle under the weight and popularity of online shopping giants such as Amazon. In July, international grocer Aldi moved across the street to a new location at 2540 Sycamore Road in Northland Plaza (they own their now vacant former space next to Target). Baton Rouge-based Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers will build their own space on the land once used by Applebee's, 2411 Sycamore Road.
Shand said contrary to popular belief, statistics from the U.S Census Bureau and the International Council of Shopping Centers show people are still going out to shop more than they're shopping online.
From 2014 to 2019, e-commerce shopping grew from $210 billion to $369 billion, a 133% increase, Shand said, but online shopping still only equates to 10% of total retail dollars spent in the country, he said.
"Our goal for this strip mall is to the best in class shopping center in this shopping corridor," Shand said. "We are seeing that with the tenant mix we're focused on here. From DSW to Five Below to T.J. Maxx and adding more soft goods retail. It's certainly a different environment than when we acquired it, definitely has its challenges, but those best-in-class retailers are what really keeps this relevant and keeps the center full."
Shand said Pier 1 and Hallmark will be placed back on the leasing market as soon as they're emptied. Mid-America does not own the Target property or the former ALDI grocer in the strip, but owns from Target to the Certified Phone Repair, 2331 Sycamore Road.