The following story about a big pending real estate development in our neighborhood is true. The names didn’t need to be been changed, since no one wanted to talk to me on the record anyway.

Up theme music — Dum de dum dum… dum de dum dum dum.

8:57 a.m.  Working the column. The boss is Rick Wamre. “Medallion Center.” “Yep.” “Up on Abrams and Northwest Highway. “ Sure, I know it.” “That movie theater has been empty a long time.” “Yep.” “Been some rumblings about new development there.” “Really?” “Yep.” “I’ll make a few calls.”

9:23 a.m. Call first real estate person. “Can’t use my name.” “OK, so what’s going in there?” “Can’t  talk about it.”

9:27 a.m. Call second real estate person. “Can’t use my name.” “OK, so what’s going in there?” “Can’t  talk about it.”

9:33 a.m. Call third real estate person. “Can’t use…” “Yeah, I know. Why the secrecy?” “Deal’s harder to do than ever. More obstacles. More fine print. Potential tenants pickier about everything. I tell you about deal, then tenant sees story and pulls out of deal.” Long pause. “I’m with the Advocate, not the Wall Street Journal.” Long pause. “Hey, a reporter is a reporter to these guys.”

Up theme music — Dum de dum dum… dum de dum dum dum.

12:23 p.m. Call first ex-tenant, who moved out to make room for new development. “What did they tell you?” “New tenant going in.” “What kind of development?” “Wouldn’t tell me.”

12:33 p.m. Call second ex-tenant, who moved out to make room for development. “What did they tell you?” “New tenant going in.” “What kind of development?” “Wouldn’t tell me.”

Up theme music — Dum de dum dum… dum de dum dum dum.

1:22 p.m. Back in office. Brief Wamre, who had a spectacular career in commercial real estate before fleeing in terror to become a media mogul. “What do you think?” “I don’t know. What do you think?” “It’s crazy. It’s a shopping center, not plans for a nuclear device.” “They don’t want to blow the deal.” “So they tell me.” Long pause. “So what are you going to write about?” “Looks like they have forced me to use the columnist’s secret weapon — speculation.” Longer pause. “My God, is the situation as desperate as that?”

Up theme music — Dum de dum dum… dum de dum dum dum.

2:45 p.m. Sitting at keyboard. Turning facts over in my mind. Empty movie theater is 28,000 square feet. Throw in 5,000 or 6,000 more square feet from storefronts on either side that have been vacated by old tenants. Add open service area in back of theater, which must be a couple of thousand square feet more. What kind of retail development needs 35,000 square feet? What kind of tenant would match neighborhood demographics, especially the nearby Village?

3:01 p.m. Call double super-secret commercial real estate source. Not even sure if he has a name. “Hypothetical question.” “Is there any other kind?” “What kind of retail would move into this space?” “Too small for a home center. Probably too small for grocery store. Maybe something like Bed Bath and Beyond? Or Cost Plus World Market?” “There’s already one of each, fairly close by.” “Hmmm, guess that’s not it then.” Long pause. “How big did you say?” “35,000 square feet or so.” “Could be …” “Could be what?” “What’s the most secretive retail chain in the history of retail?” “Oh no, not them.” “Yes, them.”

3:07 p.m. Dreading next phone call. Rather do anything than call black hole that is Wal-Mart public relations department. Still waiting for repeated calls to be returned from last attempt, in early 2002. But have to face it: site size is perfect for Wal-Mart neighborhood grocery store, like one in Lake Highlands at Skillman and Audelia. Dovetails with demographics and Wal-Mart objective to use stores to fill in area between super centers and Sam’s Clubs.

Will it be them? Only time will tell.

Up theme music — Dum de dum dum… dum de dum dum dum.

 


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