Several tenants who’d pulled out of the stalled second half of the Oxford Commons shopping center may return to the as-yet unfinished stores there, according to the firm leading the center’s development.
Del Renfro, a development manager with the Kentucky-based White Reach, wrote by email that the firm had “verbal agreements” from makeup store Ulta Beauty, fabric and sewing supply outfitter JOANN, and teenage decor store Five Below “to come back to the center.”
A spokeswoman for Jo-Ann’s earlier this year said the company’s store in Oxford would “no longer be opening,” while another for Ulta Beauty wrote by email that did not have a scheduled opening date. Efforts to reach representatives of Five Below, meanwhile, have been unsuccessful.
Efforts were similarly unsuccessful Wednesday to reach representatives of each of the three companies about any shift in intention regarding their stores at Oxford Commons.
Renfro, though, wrote Tuesday that White Reach is working to finalize lease agreements with the three tenants, and has secured leases for other property around the second half of the center.
If obtained, the leases could signal a key step toward completing the long-delayed center, originally meant to open in October 2016. White Reach needs those commitments from its tenants to get a loan to finish construction, according to an Anniston attorney representing one of the local banks that financed the center.
“We are looking forward to finishing this project,” Renfro wrote Tuesday.
Work on the center stalled late last year, one month before stores there were set to open. The contractor leading that work said its crews stopped because they’d not been paid by the developer.
Lawsuits over that pay dispute were filed soon thereafter, and legal wranglings in local court have continued since. Oxford officials, meanwhile, said they’d been left in the dark over when the dispute might be resolved and the center might open.
In August, though, city officials brought together the developer and companies suing it to force a resolution to the issue. The city’s attorney and Mayor Alton Craft both said after that meeting they were optimistic that work on the center would begin, but couldn’t say when.
More recently, attorneys for White Reach and the firm’s lead contractor indicated in a circuit court filing that they were negotiating a settlement of the dispute.