Blue Ridge purchases Wal-Mart building

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Who will own the building vacated by Wal-Mart when the SuperCenter opens is no longer a mystery. What the building will be used for, however, still is.

Glen Wilkins, a spokesman with Wal-Mart’s Community Affairs division, confirmed Monday morning that Blue Ridge Capital LLC has entered into a contract to purchase the current Wal-Mart property.

“They have closed on a contract,” Wilkins said. “Blue Ridge is a developer…I would expect they would turn around and re-tenant the building.”

Email newsletter signup

Wilkins expressed the opinion that Blue Ridge would likely already have specific plans for the property, but Blue Ridge employee Fritz McPhail stated by e-mail that this was not the case.

“We are exploring our alternatives,” McPhail wrote, “but nothing in the works yet.”

The lack of something more definite may frustrate Demopolis residents who have waited several weeks to learn the identity of the building’s new owner. The Rockwood Exchange, an online real estate sales platform facilitating the sale, first changed the Wal-Mart property listing from “Available” to “Under Contract” back on January 24 of this year.

But with the building “under contract” to Blue Ridge, the rampant speculation that the building will become a sporting goods store, a hardware store, or something else will remain only speculation.

A further source of concern among residents may be the delay in construction on the new SuperCenter. Early estimates named mid-February the date for the building’s ground-breaking, with a grand opening possible by the end of the year, but with the calendar hitting mid-March and still no construction underway, that appears unlikely.

McPhail’s statement that Blue Ridge “won’t be closing on the purchase until early in 2006” would seem to add fire to the argument that the SuperCenter will not open its doors before New Year’s.

“It should be starting shortly, if it hasn’t already,” Wilkins said. “It usually takes about 10 months to finish building a SuperCenter.”

Although that delay will be seen by many as a negative, it will give Blue Ridge more time to find a tenant or tenants for the old building, which may avoid the fate of the many abandoned Wal-Marts that have gone unoccupied.

“If any large tenants are looking for space,” McPhail wrote, “please have them call us.”

According to their website, the Atlanta-based Blue Ridge Capital LLC is a “real estate investment company targeting value-added properties located in the Southeast. The company specializes in neighborhood retail centers, but also seeks other turnaround or opportunistic real estate investments which offer the potential for significant short-term appreciation.”