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Two tenants drop out of Oxford Commons development

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Oxford Commons

Update on the progress, or lack there of, at the Oxford Commons near I-20 and Leon Smith Parkway. (Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

“The Jo-Ann store in question will no longer be opening,” Shauntina Lilly, a spokeswoman for Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, wrote in an email Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for eyeglass and contact lens retailer Eyemart Express said the same of a store planned at the long-delayed shopping center, where, in recent weeks, a bright blue lighted sign denoting the store’s existence was removed from the building’s side.

That 50,000-square-foot building sits in a red dirt expanse just north of the bustling first half of the Commons center, which is dominated by a Publix and Panera Bread restaurant.

Construction materials, untouched for months, lay scattered around the unfinished building. The primary contractor in charge of building the center said in October that work stopped because his company hadn’t been paid.

Efforts this week to reach the center’s developer, Kentucky-based White Reach Development, were unsuccessful. White Reach announced in 2011 that it would arrange construction of the 20-acre shopping center in two phases.

“Nothing yet,” Mark O’Gara, project manager for contractor Joe N. Guy Construction, said by phone Wednesday when asked if payment had been made and work had resumed.

City officials in January acknowledged the development was “definitely running behind schedule,” but said they’d had little communication with White Reach. Efforts to reach the city’s mayor, Alton Craft, on Wednesday afternoon weren’t successful.

A project manager for the developer initially said stores in the second half of the center would open in October. After the firm missed that deadline, tenants Moe’s Southwest Grill and Jo-Ann hoped for openings in the first quarter of this year.

Moe’s, a Tex-Mex fast food restaurant chain, has pushed those expectations back. A spokeswoman wrote in an email Wednesday that the Oxford location is scheduled to open this summer.

“With development of a new location, the opening dates can fluctuate,” wrote Aliya Nealy, a public relations intern with Focus Brands, which owns Moe’s.

Staff writer Zach Tyler: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @ZTyler_Star.