According to Vallas Realty Inc., the developer for the new and once-controversial Publix grocery store slated to open in Midtown, recently closed on 10 acres of land. The new grocery-anchored shopping center project is expected to break ground near the corner of North Florida Street and Old Shell Road. 

The floor plan of the Publix anticipated to anchor the new retail center will encompass some 39,200 square feet and is being developed by MAB Acquisitions. Five smaller buildings covering an additional 23,200 square feet of retail space around Publix will be built to accommodate smaller retailers and/or restaurants. Drive-thru service windows are also planned to increase convenience for restaurant patrons.

Total land acquisition cost was approximately $2.6 million. The three sellers involved were the Mobile County School Board, Ashland Station LLC and Queen G’s. Demolition of the former Augusta Evans School, which has relocated to West Mobile, is slated to begin in October. The new shopping center is expected to open in fall 2017. Vallas Realty is currently pre-leasing the available spaces surrounding the new development.

Commercial real estate moves
John M. Delchamps, associate broker with the Merrill P. Thomas Co. Inc., reported leasing 12,000 square feet of floor space to Buywise Rent to Own at 413 McKenzie Ave. (Highway 59) in Foley. Plans are in place for the rent-to-own furniture retailer to open in November.

Fowler Lighting is moving from 1060 Dauphin St. a few blocks east to 662 St. Louis St., according to a news release. The family-owned business specializing in antique and new custom light fixtures will be across the street from the new location of Olde Mobile Antiques.

Le Sueur, Minnesota-based Cambria has leased 39,600 square eet of office, showroom and warehouse space at 250 Jacintoport Blvd. in the Mobile River Industrial Park in Saraland. Cambria produces natural quartz countertops and surfaces. The building, previously occupied by Masland Carpets, will serve as a distribution facility and showroom for the company. David Dexter of NAI Mobile handled the transaction.   

Dumbwaiter on the Hill officially opened last Friday at Legacy Village, according to Buff Teague and Christy Chason of JLL. “We are glad to be in Legacy Village and look forward to being here for a long time. The management and staff at Dumbwaiter on the Hill had a very busy opening weekend, looks forward to the rest of 2016 and wants to thank everyone for their continued support and patronage,” Dumbwaiter owner Wes Lambert said.

According to insiders familiar with the deal, plans for development of the 1950s-era former Blue Bird Hardware & Seed Store located on the corner of Old Shell Road and Bayshore Avenue, directly across from UMS-Wright Preparatory School, are still in the works.

Expectations are that the well-known site will be converted into a multi-use commercial tenant property. Rumors are that both local and out-of town suitors in the retail and restaurant industries have expressed interest in occupying space at the site, but nothing will be known definitively until the end of the year. Updates on full tenant capacity won’t be realized until early 2017.

Blu Spero recently signed a lease for 2,253 square feet of retail space at Legacy Village, according to Allen Garstecki of JLL. This will be the women’s boutique clothier’s second opening in Alabama and 15th location overall, according to its website.

Roosters Latin American Cafe will be taking over the 1,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by Pita Pit at 211 Dauphin St. by new owner Frankie Little. Plans are in place for the restaurant to open in early 2017.

Attendance Awareness Month promoted by local leaders
Per a news release, United Way of Southwest Alabama (UWSWA), Mobile County Public School System and Mobile County Commissioner for District One Merceria Ludgood have joined a nationwide effort to celebrate Attendance Awareness Month in September.

In their fourth year of partnership, the group has locally distributed more than 30,000 flyers with tips for developing good attendance habits to families at every MCPSS elementary school.

Chronic absence is defined as missing 10 percent of the school year — or about 18 days — for any reason, excused or unexcused. That’s the point at which absenteeism begins to affect student performance, research shows.

Nationally, 5 million to 7.5 million students miss nearly a month of school in excused and unexcused absences every year. Within MCPSS, 3.1 percent of students, which equates to more than 2,500 students, were chronically absent during the 2013-2014 school year, according to Alabama School Connection.

With studies tracking child absenteeism as early as preschool, chronic absence predicts lower third-grade reading scores. By middle school, it is a warning sign that students will fail key classes and drop out of high school.

According to a report, low-income students are four times more likely to be chronically absent than others, often for reasons beyond their control such as unstable housing, unreliable transportation and lack of access to health care.

“When our schools graduate more students, on time, our communities and our economy are stronger. We have more people who are prepared for the workplace and more engaged in our community’s civic life,” Ludgood said.

“We know that good attendance is necessary to narrow the achievement gap and reduce the dropout rate. We need to start early to develop good attendance habits,” MCPSS superintendent and UWSWA Board Member Martha Peek said. “Children must be in school to benefit from daily instruction in order to be successful learners.”

“September is a particularly good time to focus on attendance,” UWSWA president and CEO Clifford Grimes said. “Research shows that students who miss two to four days in the first month of school are more likely to become chronically absent during the school year. By paying attention to absences early in the school year and early in a child’s academic career, we can turn around attendance and achievement.”

To help promote good attendance, UWSWA and Ludgood are hosting attendance celebrations to applaud outstanding attendance at Mobile County public elementary schools. Classes with fewer than three absences through the month of September are eligible and may be selected to receive a classroom celebration.

For more information about United Way’s Attendance Awareness initiative, please contact the UWSWA office at 251-433-3624.