Five years ago, seeing a large empty store at a major intersection was a common site.
Closed grocery stores dotted intersections along U.S. 31 from Franklin to the southside.
Now, the majority of those vacant stores have either gotten new life as a different retailer or business, or they are planned to be redeveloped.
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Most recently, the former Marsh store in Franklin sold at auction. But city officials aren’t sure what will happen with the property next.
And the city is facing another vacancy, when the current Kroger store at Westview Drive and U.S. 31 closes and is replaced by a new Kroger Marketplace store being built.
Mayor Joe McGuinness said he is encouraged by the number of other vacancies that have been filled in recent years, including the former Marsh and Kmart locations in Greenwood and a former grocery store in Whiteland.
“You always have that concern, but I do have some faith because we’ve seen a lot of these start to fill up,” McGuinness said.
This year, a long-vacant grocery store in Whiteland that residents and officials had complained was an eyesore was torn down, with plans to replace it with a Johnson Memorial Health medical office building.
Work also is continuing to redevelop a former Marsh store in Greenwood at U.S. 31, just south of Smith Valley Road, that closed in 2012. Hubler Automotive Group purchased the 31,000-square-foot building last year and has renovated it for a pre-owned vehicle supercenter, planned to open this year.
In the past few years, a closed Kmart location in Greenwood was reopened as a Rural King, Big Lots opened in a vacant box store in Franklin and shopping centers with multiple vacancies on the southside, near County Line Road and U.S. 31, have been redeveloped with new retailers, such as ULTA Beauty and T.J. Maxx.
The former Franklin Marsh location had been vacant since 2014, when the grocery store closed. The property, which is connected to a shopping center with several other businesses, recently sold at auction for $1.175 million, according to the real estate company.
The buyer, Jim Martens, has not contacted the city about plans for the property, city officials said. Martens could not be reached.
McGuinness hopes to see a business move into the location and knows there is interest in the property, since the city had been contacted more than once since the store closed, he said.
“I’m happy that it sold, and hopefully the new buyer is motivated and has a good plan,” he said.
Residents ask the mayor often about the plans for the property, he said.
And now, with a new Kroger Marketplace under construction on U.S. 31, people want to know what will happen with the current location that is planned to close, he said.
Filling a large, big box retail location is definitely more challenging than recruiting new tenants for smaller shops, he said. The current Kroger store is about 40,000 square feet.
“Of course, I am concerned about that vacancy, and an open space of that size,” he said.
McGuinness has met with officials from Kroger about the location and what is being done to get it filled, he said.
Kroger and the company that owns that location already have started working together to find a new tenant or tenants, since multiple businesses may be needed to fill that large of a space, he said.
“Kroger doesn’t have to, but is working with them to find someone,” McGuinness said.
Here is a look at what has happened with big box stores that had been vacant:
Where: Main Street and U.S. 31
What’s happening: Purchased last month at auction for $1.175 million
Where: U.S. 31 and Westview Drive
Closed: Late 1990s
What’s happening: Big Lots joined existing tenant Tractor Supply Co. in 2013
Where: U.S. 31 and Westview Drive
What’s happening: The 40,000-square-foot store is planned to close when the new Kroger Marketplace opens, and the owner and Kroger are looking for a new tenant or tenants.
Where: U.S. 31, south of Smith Valley Road
What’s happening: Purchased last year by Hubler Automotive Group, which is opening a pre-owned vehicle supercenter
Where: U.S. 31 and Smith Valley Road
What’s happening: The store closed in 2014 and was purchased, renovated and reopened as a Rural King in 2015
Former Mr. D’s Supermarket
Where: U.S. 31 and Whiteland Road
What’s happening: Johnson Memorial Health purchased the property, tore down the former store and is planning to build physican offices