O&S Holdings has come out with yet another expansion plan for Bridge Street. This one involves possibly filling in the 10-acre "Lake Leaky" to add 75,000 square feet of retail space along with a "high-end" department store. Not to mention an expensive underground parking garage. What is their plan to fund this $50 million expansion during the recession? By using part of the current city sales tax generated from the new department store.
Let's say that the developers decide to fill in the lake for the expansion. How Huntsville of us to think that the solution to a problem is to pave over it. From the words of President Obama, "plug the damn hole!" You'd think with the workforce here, they could find legitimate, competent engineers to build/fix a proper lake.
After fixing the lake, a new expansion location would have to be found. There are plenty of surface lots that could be used, and instead of building an underground garage, why not construct an above-ground deck to compensate for the lost/needed parking. And to pay for it, have people pay a fee for the convenience of parking in the garage. If the department store is as good as the developers say it will be, people will be willing to pay to park.
Last, but not least, is the retail portion of the expansion. A 75,000 sq. ft. addition to the center, along with a 100-150,000 sq. ft. department store, will make Bridge Street the second-largest retail development in the city, surpassing Parkway Place but below Madison Square's 1 million sq. ft. But how will the developers attract new stores to the expansion when there are empty storefronts in the existing center?
Enough ranting. Let's speculate on the the three most probable department store chains, which I've nicknamed The Obvious, The Long Shot, and The Wild Card:
The Obvious: Macy's. This may seem like the most logical choice because of their widespread presence in other cities, but not in Huntsville. However, with their nationwide expansion, their "high-end"-ness has been questioned recently, with many of their non-flagship stores carrying brands seen in more mid-range stores like Kohl's and JCPenney. But they have made the move to lifestyle centers, creating a new concept store for developments such as Bridge Street.
The Long Shot: Nordstrom. The Seattle-based high-end chain almost exclusively locates in metro areas with more than 1.5 million people. Also, a Nashville store will open in September 2011. That said, I don't think we'll see a full-scale Nordstrom in Huntsville for a couple of decades... at least. But there are two possible exceptions: a Nordstrom Rack (outlet store) or a smaller-scale store concept geared towards smaller cities.
The Wild Card: Von Maur. Many of you have probably never heard of this small Midwestern chain; I hadn't until about a year ago, when someone suggested it as a possible Bridge Street anchor (it was the planned anchor for another Bridge Street development in Chicago). I was skeptical at first, but the chain has slowly moved south, opening stores in Kentucky and Missouri. It's high-end, not currently in "the region," and it has stores in Huntsville-sized cities. I say Von Maur's got a good chance.