Wards Corner’s Midtown Shopping Center described as “dead zone”

June 29, 2008

In today’s business section of a publication for property lawyers Melbourne, an article headlined as “Dead Zones” mentioned 5 retail dead zones. Midtown Shopping Center on the northeast corner of Granby Street and Little Creek Road was one of them. For years, the Greater Wards Corner Partnership has complained about the poor management of this shopping center. Any commercial real estate agent can tell you that the design of this center is obsolete. It is very hard to lease spaces that are extremely long and narrow. Retailers today want frontage for visability to the street or parking lot. We can only hope Ms. Joan Dalis, the owner of the Midtown Shopping Center, will sign on to the vision of the Greater Wards Corner Comprehensive Plan for the northeast corner.

2007 assessment $7.1 million
Year built 1946
Total square feet about 75,000 of retail space
Square feet under lease
Not disclosed
Notable Uncle Louie’s Restaurant served as a longtime place of civic activity.
BEFORE Southern Shopping Center was hip in the 1950s, and prior to sometimes trendy Janaf Shopping Center, there was the Midtown Shopping Cent er.
At the intersection of Granby Street and East Little Creek Road, the retail hub was a pivotal place of Norfolk business during the 1940s.
“We used to be the Times Square of the South,” said 78-year-old Nellie Francis, a 33-year Wards Corner resident and manager of the center’s Sarah’s Hallmark, one of a handful of stores left.
The center was eclipse d by other retail centers such as Southern Shopping Center and The Gallery at Military Circle, previously Military Circle Mall.
Midtown Shopping Center has struggled to attract tenants. It has several vacancies in contrast to the more vibrant shopping center across the street.
For 61 years, Midtown Development Corp. has owned the Midtown Shopping Center. The 4.6-acre property was assessed at $7.1 million last year, according to city records.
One of the center’s most popular tenants was Uncle Louie’s Restaurant. Famous for its savory Reuben sandwiches and seasoned egg salads, Uncle Louie’s was the center of civic, leisure and business activities for 21 years.
The eatery gave birth to the community group Wards Corner Partnership and hosted many political shindigs and other parties. The restaurant closed abruptly in 2005.
Three years later, that space and several others in the shopping center remain empty.
Larry Hecht, the center’s retail leasing agent at Harvey Lindsay Commercial Real Estate in Norfolk, said that although the building is older and requires work and a substantial financial investment, he has received calls from prospective tenants.
Hecht said he is waiting for the right people to come along. As a Norfolk native, he’s hoping for a turnaround.
“There’s still a lot of traffic that funnels through Granby Street and Little Creek Road,” Hecht said. “There’s money to be made there.”



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