By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on September 8, 2021
The Southern Shores Town Council unanimously voted to approve the amended site plan of Aston Properties on Sept. 7, giving the company the green light to move forward with the renovation of the Marketplace that will include the demolition of a portion of the shopping center to make way for a 24,000-square-foot Marshalls Department Store.
The site plan also includes the construction of a 6,000-square-foot retail space and the reconfiguration of the center’s parking lot. A number of conditions are attached to the approval related to lot coverage, storm water drainage and attainment by the applicant of state and county permits.
Prior to the vote, a handful of residents spoke at a public hearing, some citing concerns about the impacts of a large national chain moving in, others upset about Aston’s plan to remove an island with trees in the parking lot and the noise during the construction phase.
Lilias Morrison, for her part, said she thought the project would help to revitalize the shopping center. “I have to say that a small box store would indeed help the Marketplace and help this community. The Marketplace is still a better-looking shopping center than Walmart across the street where I looked and there are just no trees.”
Ann Sjoerdsma, however, questioned whether the changes were in line with the town’s 2008 land use plan.
“I have a problem with the consistency of [AstThe Southern Shores Town Council unanimously voted to approve the amended site plan of Aston Properties on Sept. 7, giving the company the green light to move forward with the renovation of the Marketplace that will include the demolition of a portion of the shopping center to make way for a 24,000-square-foot Marshalls Department Stoon’s] plan with our land use plan,” she said, adding that the land use plan definitively states no big box retail. “I hope we’re not looking at a strip mall here in the future. It disturbs me that we have a 6,000-square-foot space with no tenant prepared to go in. Are we going to be happy if that tenant turns out to be a Wings?”
Aston Properties Vice President of Construction and Development Karen Partee also spoke during the public hearing to address some concerns regarding the project, adding that Marshalls was not on the scale of big box stores like Target and Walmart, but rather considered a “junior box store.”
“This is an opportunity to right size the uses in the shopping center. We currently have, and have had, since we purchased the shopping center back in 2014 an abundance of vacancies and those vacancies are not healthy,” she said, adding that this is an opportunity to revitalize the center in a significant way and to draw additional businesses to the center.
In regard to noise during the construction phase, Partee said Aston was eager to get the building opened and operational as quickly as possible. “So, the length of construction hopefully will be very compressed, but we will do everything we can to make sure noise is not an issue.”
As for the removal of the island in the parking lot, Partee noted that it was not only a parking issue but also a visibility issue. “If a national tenant is based there, they are going to want good signage, visibility, they are going to want people to know they are there,” she added.
“I would just say that over the years since Aston took over, the Marketplace has been really struggling,” Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey said prior to the vote. “So, do I wish the plan was better, do you I wish we could have some influence over more aspects of their proposal…of course. But I think in general, we’re getting something that the town needs, which is a vibrant commercial district. That’s something that’s good for the town.”
For his part, Councilman Jim Conners echoed Morey’s enthusiasm. “I would like to compliment Aston properties for their efforts in the last few years,” he said. “They recruited hopefully Marshalls, they’ve done a lot of landscaping renovations and work out there to try and revitalize that shopping center.
Partee, in an earlier interview with the Voice, had said that Marshalls could open as early as the spring of 2023.