Austin Miller / Daily Express
A developer interested in renovating the old Gordmans and JC Penney sites in Kirksville is moving forward with this plan.
At a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Wednesday, the commission approved a change in the authorized use table that will allow special use permits for storage facilities in zones C-3. He also voted in favor of the special use permit for this business, although city council approval is also needed for both of these measures.
FOLLOWING: Developer interested in the reallocation of the old JC Penney, Gordmans stores
Representatives from Smartlock Self Storage, a Garland, Texas-based real estate developer and self-storage operator, spoke at Wednesday’s meeting. They not only plan to transform the two old stores into air-conditioned self-storage facilities, but also to purchase the entire Kirksville Renaissance shopping center and develop it further.
Jonah Hall, co-founder of Smartlock, said there would be around 341 storage units in total varying in size in the two buildings, with a fairly even distribution. The units are contactless, which means that the entire user experience is done on a smartphone. This is how users can select a unit to rent, access the building, and report issues.
Hall said there might be one or a few employees in the storage facility, as most of the process is done on a smartphone.
But the company’s plan to further develop available space in the mall is another key element, which formed a large part of Wednesday’s discussion.
City council member Rick Steele, who is the planning and zoning council representative, voted against the special use permit. While he would like to see increased development on the south side of Kirksville since the north side currently receives most of it, he felt that the Gordmans and JC Penney locations were quality retail sites.
“I would love to see Kirksville thrive, and I’m definitely not against storage facilities, but they also probably take two of our best retail spaces in town that are already built,” Steele said. “I think the south of town needs retailers like clothing and that type of retail market. Personally, I would rather see us wait and try to keep pushing something in there, instead of just, in a sense, just rushing to get something that I don’t personally see, in the long run, as well for Kirksville.
Commission member Kelsey Aurand de Razo voted in favor of the special use permit, while agreeing with Steele’s sentiments.
“I hear you Rick, and I would love to see retail as well,” said Aurand de Razo. “I’m just wondering, in general terms, what is the likelihood of us resuming retail, given what we and so many other communities envision with these big increases in online shopping.”
The Gordmans and JC Penney stores have been closed for over a year. Since then, work has been done to obtain something else in these spaces. Art King with Raul Walters Properties, who currently owns the mall, sent a letter to the commission, saying there are no active discussions or deals with sellers interested in filling the spaces.
Deputy city manager Ashley Young said there had been leads over the past year, but none came to fruition.
“Generally speaking, if past performance is an indicator of future results, then it’s not likely,” Young said of the likelihood of retail returning to these buildings. “Because we’re talking about a 40 year old commercial retail space. In some cases, as we see on the north side of town with Old Navy, it is cheaper to develop a green grass site than to go to an existing site with all the expense of renovating it.
Hall couldn’t specifically name the retail options planned to fill or expand the space, but he said retail and dining opportunities may be available.
“I can’t speak to any specific discussions we’re having right now, but that’s definitely the goal,” Hall said. “The goal is to bring retail back into each of those currently vacant and unused spaces for this particular model that we have here.”
Commission member Chuck Heckert abstained from voting on the special use permit. This permit is expected to be reviewed by city council at its December 20 meeting.
With shopping malls facing vacancy issues across the country, Young expects similar proposals to emerge in the future.
“I guarantee you, this won’t be the last time something like this has come before you,” Young told the committee. “It will only become more and more frequent. Because these shopping centers must evolve to adapt to their times, and this partly implies allowing multiple uses. Not just simple and strict retail, but also entertainment, offices and in some cases housing. “