OXFORD — At least two tenants of the long-stalled second phase of the Oxford Commons shopping center intend to open within coming months, according to spokespeople representing the companies.
City officials said this week, though, that they have no hard-and-fast opening date for the center, the development of which they spent millions preparing.
A Moe’s Southwest Grill restaurant planned for the 50,000-square-foot center may open at the beginning of February, a spokeswoman wrote by email this week — though there’s uncertainty in the exact date.
“We typically know two weeks out that it’s a firm opening date,” wrote Karlie Lahm, a senior director of public relations at Focus Brands, which owns Moe’s.
When the fabric and sewing supply outfitter Jo-Ann’s will open is similarly uncertain. A spokeswoman for the company said by email in November the store was scheduled to open in the first quarter of this year — meaning doors could open any time within the first three months of 2017.
Efforts Thursday to reach Steve Reach, president of the Kentucky-based White Reach Development, which announced in 2011 it would build the center, were unsuccessful.
No crews worked at the site alongside Interstate 20 Exit 188 that afternoon, where construction materials lay piled near Moe’s and Ulta Beauty, two of the the five center tenants that Kentucky developer White Reach announced last year. The center’s opening date has been delayed since October, when an executive with the contractor leading work on the site said his company hadn’t been paid for what crews had done so far.
Besides Moe’s, Ulta, and Jo-Ann’s, Eyemart Express and teenage-aimed decor store Five Below are planned for the center. Five more stores and restaurants are meant to stand apart from the new strip, among them Sleep Outfitters, Chicken Salad Chick, and the already-open Panda Express.
Area shoppers await the stores’ opening eagerly enough that city officials fielded questions about the neglected look of the development from one woman at the most recent City Council meeting.
“We do not have a definite date on that,” Council President Chris Spurlin told the woman.
The city has spent more than $10 million to nurture development of both phases of the center — $7.49 million first in preparing the site, then an extra $3.3 million filling a sinkhole that opened in 2012 where the unfinished second phase now sits.
Spurlin said the center was “definitely running behind schedule,” and that he’d been told that was because the developer was trying to line up more businesses for the site.
Mayor Alton Craft said Wednesday that he believes Reach is still working on the second phase of the Commons center. His last communication with the developer was in November, he said.
Reach also is apparently not talking to a commercial real estate broker that represents a Michigan investment company looking to purchase the first phase of the center, which includes Publix and Panera Bread.
“We still haven’t heard a word,” Mark Forney, the commercial real estate broker working for the Florida-based Gries Investment Funds, said by phone Thursday.
“He’s supposedly working on extensions of his leases,” Forney said, referring to agreements with tenant stores. He added that Reach “hasn’t lost anybody.”