New retail businesses, and jobs, could be coming to Tarboro if negotiations between Harry Hipper and Ernie Schaffer, owners of Riverside Plaza, are successful.
Schaffer said Tuesday they have been talking with four retailers, ranging in spectrum from a local business to national chain operations, about relocating to the former Parkhill Mall. Schaffer also acknowledged that Hipper has been negotiating with North East Carolina Prep School regarding tenancy in the building.
“. . . He and I have had extensive discussions on their occupancy,” Schaffer said. “We have made them an extremely fair and reasonable offer for the space with the availability for them to expand into the other open areas that we have within the mall. About 250,000 square feet could be made available to them at a very reasonable rate. I’m hoping that will go our way. I think it would be excellent for the community. I think it would be great for our center and for all of the surrounding businesses. Time will tell in the next few days and hopefully, we can make it happen.”
He said renovations to the facility, which started shortly after its purchase, are ongoing.
“Within the first 18 months, we did a complete renovation of the front portion and the outside of the building, which included some plumbing and electrical updates,” he explained. “Since then, we have replaced the roof on almost the entire building within the last 10 or 12 months. Our vision was to turn the center into a strip center, with possibly keeping the interior as a mall space and turning the back side of it into more of an office space.”
Schaffer said the exterior of the mall is being renovated in order to create more space for retail stores and that the roof-line will be lifted and acrylic stucco and columns added.
In regards to retail potential, Schaffer said there had been more interest thus far this year than over the past several. He attributed that increase to an upswing in the general economy.
“The demographics in Tarboro, as far as the population and income level, don’t make it as desirable for some semi-national and national tenants (as it could be),” Schaffer said.
“We didn’t buy this as a short-term investment,” he said. “We bought this as a long-term investment and we plan on continuing to look at many different possibilities, including the charter school and other office uses. We even had some medical people approach us about putting in a medical office in some of the space. There are lots of different markets that we can look at to try to fill the space.”
Hipper and Schaffer bought the property in two steps, purchasing the former Mall itself for $950,000 on Dec. 13, 2007 and then adding the former K-Mart to their portfolio on July 13, 2009 for $375,000. In all, the taxable value of the two properties is a little more than $1.6 million.