In September of 2011 the doors were opened to the Urban Emporium (UE), a retail business incubator located in LoDa. UE started as a project of Springboard to Success; an offshoot of the Downtown Mobile Alliance (DMA).

Funding for the enterprise comes from area foundations and program fees member businesses pay the UE for their involvement. 

Its purpose is to transform neophyte retailers into successful entrepreneurs. The hope is that a good experience within the incubator will spur fledgling business owners to spread their wings and nest downtown to assist in populating the preponderance of vacant storefronts dotting the district.

As a benchmark of their success during a relatively brief existence, the UE was awarded in 2013 an International Downtown Association’s Pinnacle Award for economic development.

“When we created the program, it was pretty unusual. There were high-tech incubators and other incubators, such as the Business Innovation Center in Mobile, but there were none focused on retail. Additionally, there were some for-profit models that we were able to learn from, but we are continuously trying to improve and learn from best practices and mistakes,” Fred Rendrey, DMA’s Director of Downtown Economic Development said.    

“When the Urban Emporium began, the expectation was that six larger businesses would occupy the space. Each was projected to fill a 1,500-square-foot space. However, what happened is that 16 smaller businesses located inside with additional room still available. These businesses are very fluid. Entrepreneurs evolve, change models, decide they don’t like retail as much as initially thought and often move,” Rendfrey said.   

“Interesting trends have also been noticed. Web-based retail is continuing strongly, but competing on price alone against the Amazon.coms of the world is not wise. Even online shops are differentiating themselves. Social media is obviously playing a major role in this and will continue. The ‘buying local’ movement is steadily gaining momentum,” Rendfrey said. 

When asked as to what types of retail establishments would best serve LoDa in the near term, Rendfrey listed toy stores, electronics, furniture retail and men’s clothing shops as the biggest vacuum to fill for 2014.

Commercial real estate moves

Vape-It, Inc., an electronic cigarette retailer, has leased 1,200-square-feet of retail space at 2502 S. Schillinger Road, Suite 12A, in the Winn-Dixie Shopping Center. Angela McArthur of Prudential Cooper and Co., Inc. Commercial Division handled the transaction.

Mediacom Southeast has leased 1,200-square-feet of retail space also at 2502 S. Schillinger Road, Suite 11, in the Winn-Dixie Shopping Center. Angela McArthur of Prudential Cooper and Co., Inc. Commercial Division handled the transaction.

White-Spunner Realty recently leased a 42,883-square-foot space in Saraland Loop Plaza located at 112 Saraland Loop Road in Saraland to Rouses. The Thibodaux, La.-based grocer franchise recently opened three new stores in Mobile, with plans to open two more in Baldwin County. 

The grand opening was Feb. 19, and there are currently three additional spaces available in this shopping center to lease.   

Rosshiki’s Next Level Fitness — a new locally owned personal training facility — recently leased 3,053-square-feet of building space located at 4622 Springhill Avenue in Mobile. Mike Reid of White-Spunner Realty worked for both the tenant and the owners in the transaction.

Burton Property Group (BPG) of Mobile announced recently that it has purchased eight acres in Foley on Highway 59 to construct its newest shopping center development, McKenzie Village. This 85,000-square-foot shopping center will be anchored by Hobby Lobby.

A national junior anchor tenant will be announced soon according to BPG’s spokesperson, Sage Wyatt. Construction on McKenzie Village is projected to be completed by summer 2014 and estimated cost is north of $9 million.

McKenzie Village is located on Highway 59 adjacent to Lowe’s Home Improvement.

Josh Burmeister and Buff Teague of Jones Lang LaSalle handled leasing of the property. Goodwyn/Mills/Cawood was the architectural engineer for the project. McDowell, Knight, Roedder & Sledge worked for the landlord in the transaction. Financing was provided by BancorpSouth.

Over the last 18 months, BPG has been active in Gulf Coast development — most notably with Pinebrook Shopping Center and Westwood Plaza — and more projects will soon be announced in 2014.

Ingalls unveils revenue results

Huntington Ingalls Industries (NYSE:HII) in Pascagoula, Miss., reported fourth quarter 2013 revenues of $1.94 billion, up 6.3 percent from the same period last year. Fourth quarter diluted earnings per share was $1.82, compared to $0.98 in the same period of 2012.

“As HII’s three-year anniversary approaches, I am pleased with the operational improvements achieved by our team and the resulting financial performance,” Mike Petters, HII’s president and CEO, said.

“The last of our underperforming contracts, LHA-6 America, will be delivered in the coming weeks, performance continues to improve at Ingalls, and we are on schedule to meet our 2015 operating margin goal.”

Additional key milestones for Ingalls were:

Started fabrication on NSC-6 Munro; delivered the amphibious transport dock LPD-25 Somerset; christened NSC-4 Hamilton; authenticated the keel of the company’s 29th Arleigh Burke-class Destroyer, DDG-113 John Finn; opened the 70,000-square-foot Haley Reeves Barbour Maritime Training Academy and completed successful builder’s sea trials of LHA-6 America.

Somerby garners national honors

Somerby of Mobile, an active rental retirement community located in WeMo, is one of only two in the nation to become a Certified Center for Successful Aging (CSA) by Masterpiece Living, a landmark initiative that promotes healthy aging.

The CSA designation is a third-party certification awarded to leaders in the aging field who are actively committed to furthering the successful aging movement. This certification is measured through qualitative and quantitative criteria that reflect integration of successful aging principles in the areas of culture, outreach, leadership, team member engagement, resident engagement and purposeful programming.

Certified CSAs are a positive example for organizations and individuals by highlighting what is possible with aging and encouraging a more enlightened public policy, per the press release.

“We’re so very honored for this recognition from Masterpiece Living and to be the first of only two communities in the country to receive it,” Jane Scrivner, executive director said. “It not only signifies a monumental accomplishment for the Somerby Senior Living family, it takes our community to a whole new level in terms of nurturing and inspiring successful aging.”