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Giddings Plaza Reaches Full Occupancy; Adds Healthcare Cluster

Giddings, TX (January 2019) - With the addition of Giddings Academy of Dance, which has signed a lease for the space most recently occupied by Marina’s Italian Restaurant, Giddings Plaza has reached full occupancy for the first time in more than a decade.  

“We are so excited about this development,” states Tonya Britton, Giddings Economic Development Director. “The plaza, which is located at 2400 East Austin Street adjacent to Walmart, has been a tough project to bring to this stage and we couldn’t be more pleased that there is a final tenant and that the tenant is the dance academy.  Giddings needs activities for kids, dance instructor and owner Keri Weathers needed a place to grow her business, and the plaza needed a reliable tenant. This has turned out to be a win for everyone.”

For more than a decade, Giddings Plaza has struggled with attracting and retaining occupants. In spite of improvements such as new exterior paint and long-term occupancy by well-recognized businesses such as Bealls and Subway, the plaza has experienced high turnover and vacancies have gone unfilled and spaces underutilized.

With the goal of reversing the trend, in 2015, the GEDC signed a $25,000 marketing and recruitment contract with site selection specialists Retail Strategies to conduct a thorough market analysis with a focus on the plaza. The company was also to represent the city at industry trade shows such as the International Council for Shopping Centers show in Las Vegas, NV, and to provide coaching and analysis to the GEDC on growth projections and site location requirements for various franchises, including restaurants, retailers, grocers and pharmacies.    

The GEDC learned a lot about the city’s position in the market.  Most of the city’s available spaces were too small, out-of-date, did not have adequate parking, or did not already contain the right retail/ restaurant mix to attract a national franchisee.  Some prospects expressed concern that they might pull too many customers from existing sites in nearby communities.

Many were unconvinced that Giddings’ population of 5,000 was not indicative of the actual market demand.  The city’s customer base is larger than its population indicates due to traffic on highway 290 and due to the many weekenders and tourists that live in and visit the surrounding areas.  

More than 100,000 people live within 30 miles of Giddings and many of those people pass through on their way to and from work.  Texans are used to driving, but site selectors representing out-of-state companies don’t always understand that mind-set.

After a year and with few serious inquiries, the GEDC decided to take what they learned from their partnership with Retail Strategies and rather than renew the contract, invest money into improving deficiencies identified in the market study and in projects to change the perception of Giddings as a pass-through community. 

A healthcare demand analysis conducted in 2015-16 also indicated that the city’s lack of healthcare facilities was a negative indicator for growth, and several of the GEDC’s meetings with corporate assisted living facilities and housing developers hit a dead-end when the prospects learned that the city had neither a hospital nor an urgent care facility.

In response, the GEDC began outreach to family-owned medical facilities such as Davam Urgent Care and put funds toward expanding local facilities such as Tejas Health and Mary’s Clinic.

In mid-2017, the GEDC was in negotiations with Montgomery, Texas-based Davam Urgent Care when a call came though from a developer representing a build-to-suit project for Starbucks.  The only catch, the developer wanted a second tenant to co-locate with the coffeehouse. 

“It was a Catch-22.  Starbucks wanted to be in Giddings, but only on the condition that we could provide a national franchise with whom they could co-locate.  We had already determined that there were few franchises interested in coming to Giddings at that time and we were still struggling to find tenants for the the plaza. Suddenly we were faced with finding a tenant for a site that didn’t yet exist and a prospect about which we couldn’t speak.  With no other prospects, but believing that they would make a good partner, we suggested Davam Urgent Care and when the developers told us that Starbucks had accepted, we thought, “game on!,” said Britton
 
After months of negotiations, the companies were unable to come to a lease agreement and the GEDC thought either or both prospects might be lost.  Davam began indicating that they were considering the space now occupied by Dominos’ Pizza.  The GEDC was working to save the Starbucks project when athletic wear franchise Hibbett Sports located in Giddings Plaza shuttered its doors without notice.  The sudden vacancy of 3,000+ square feet might have been the last nail in the coffin as it was unlikely that Starbucks would want to locate in a single tenant building across from a half-empty shopping center. 

“We found out about Hibbett toward the end of the week and called Davam, who contacted the owners of Giddings Plaza, and by Monday, Davam had shifted from considering the smaller endcap to leasing the Hibbett Sport space.  This new location provided Davam with almost 1,000 sq feet more than they would have had with Starbucks or with the endcap and their presence now serves as a medical anchor in a space that would otherwise have been a gaping vacancy.  After Davam signed the lease on the new space, the developer was able to convince Starbucks to move on to a stand-alone building, and that was the beginning of everything falling into place,” explained Britton.  The plaza now has a health and wellness cluster that includes eyecare, dental, urgent care, a fitness facilities and a dance studio, all of which the GEDC can leverage to recruit more development into the area.

In 2018 alone, the plaza added four new tenants: Domino's Pizza, Davam Urgent Care, Giddings Dental and Giddings Academy of Dance. These were added to existing tenants: Giddings Eyecare, Anytime Fitness, Check N Go, Subway, Bealls, Hunans Restaurant, Images, Happy Nails, Cricket Wireless, Mobile Sound Plus, and Dollar General, which has recently undergone a major renovation. 
Now that the plaza is full, the GEDC’s efforts will shift into a retention mode.  The GEDC has visited with the owners of the plaza at the Pinnacle Properties office in McKinney and is working with them to determine how the organization may be of further assistance.

In 2019, the plaza plans to compete major improvements. These improvements include replacing several sections of the roof; upgrading the parking lot lights to LED; repairing, restriping and seal-coating the parking lot, and upgrading signage.  "We hope that the improvements will make this property a jewel for the City of Giddings,” states Keith W. Finley, President of Giddings, Inc. (General Manager). Giddings, L.P. (Property Owner).  

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