Now that the former Foot Locker on Westchester Square has been boarded up for more than three months, officials are increasing efforts to bring a new retailer into the 18,000-square-foot lot.
Community leaders and Senator Jeff Klein sent out roughly a dozen proposals to large retail chains to gauge their interest in opening up a branch at the 34 Westchester Square facility.
The space once housed a Woolworths department store, which drew thousands of customers to the area from all over the city. Officials are planning to bring in a new “anchor store” that would be a central business for the district.
“We’re definitely looking for a large magnet store that will carry with it a large base of customers, because once you have that type of magnet store, there’s spillover and that will bring in more traffic to the area,” said Westchester Square Merchants president Greg Perry.
He did not mention which stores have been targeted, but added: “There are numerous stores that act as magnet stores, but there must be a marriage between what the community needs and what is best for the company. This could be anything from eateries to sporting goods stores.”
According to officials, two stores have expressed some interest in the property. However, to ensure the community gets exactly what it needs in the centralized lot, community leaders are continuing to develop a business proposal for any interested parties.
With help from business-owners and community leaders, Klein’s office is spearheading the effort to put together a proposal that outlines the positives of opening a business in the area, and focuses on ways to target the 120,000 people that travel through the square daily.
“Currently, the association and I are working together on a proposal for potential retail tenants that details why opening a business in Westchester Square is such an attractive option – the area has high foot-traffic, positive sales at existing businesses and great accessibility as a major mass transit hub,” Klein said. “I remain committed to working to revitalize this essential community hub.”
According to Perry, the proposal will not only help draw in an anchor store, it will help boost the appeal of the overall community.
“One of the most significant things for any business is to understand the overall demographics of the area. Once you have the statistics, it helps to support more than just an opinion of the viability of a stores in the area,” he said. “This will definitely help those companies that are looking to expand or relocate in our area.”
In the 1940s, Woolworths opened a department store on the property and the location became the central driving force for business until it closed in 1994. Since it still owned the lease, Woolworths opened a Foot Locker, which is a subsidiary, at the location soon after.
However, the space was too large for the shoe store and the business never truly developed into a proper anchor for the area.
The store closed earlier this year, and since then, bringing an anchor store on the level of Woolworths has become a focus of business and community leaders.
“It’s not a try. We will bring it back,” said Perry. “We’re not going to fail on this.”