The Westerville Square shopping center, in the midst of a $16 million renovation, is drawing serious attention from retailers, said representatives from the Hadler Cos., the center's owner.
"The interest in that center has been overwhelming, the people who are interested," said Hadler representative Stephen Breech.
Revol Wireless was so eager to be part of the center that the store opened last week, before renovations were even far enough to allow for a sign, Breech said. A nail salon is likely to go in, as is Smashburger, a national upscale hamburger chain that recently opened its first central Ohio location in Gahanna.
Renovations that included knocking down three existing storefronts to make way for a Walmart broke ground last summer and are expected to wrap this summer.
"It's all good news. We're on schedule, keeping all the promises we made to the city of Westerville. We will be ready with our part, probably before Walmart," said the Hadler Cos. CEO George Hadler. "From this point forward, everything is weather sensitive."
Walmart Market Manager Matt Burke said construction is on schedule for Walmart to take possession from its contractor July 8. An opening date has not been set, Burke said, but it generally takes Walmart six to eight weeks to set up once it has taken possession of a store.
"What we'll do is come in and set everything up and get the merchandise on the counters and make it what you see in most Walmart stores," Burke said.
The retailer now is working to identify what products it will carry in the 108,000-square-foot Westerville Square store, which is smaller than a typical Walmart store.
"It is a smaller store, so we won't have maybe all of the products like the larger store," Burke said.
The store will carry the same categories of merchandise as other Walmart stores, Burke said, just less of it.
As far as the rest of the center, some current tenants have resigned their leases while others, such as the Fred Astaire Dance Studio and the UPS Store, have moved.
Hadler said he expects interest in the center to heat up even more as construction nears completion.
"The potential is when prospective tenants see construction come together with the anchor tenant in place," Hadler said.
Hadler said he is as eager as anyone for construction to wrap up on the center, as rehabilitating a shopping center causes headaches for existing tenants and their customers.
"It's always a pain -- a pain for the customers and a pain for the tenants. But it's worth it once it's done," Hadler said. "These things are always complicated. It's a lot easier to build a shopping center (than to renovate one)."
Despite that eagerness, Breech said the Hadler Cos. representatives are focused on finding the right mix of tenants for the center, which sits at the northeast corner of Schrock Road and South State Street.
"You can fill (shopping centers) up with anything if you want to, but (Hadler is) really trying to get a mix of tenants that will work together and fit Westerville," Breech said. "We've tried to be picky."