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Major Retail Coming to Brown's Island?

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In 2002, City Council agreed to cough up $12 million in real estate tax breaks and another $4.6 million in infrastructure for a mixed-use riverfront development on the island. City officials projected that tax revenues from proposed retail shops and restaurants would offset the city's cost for the deal.

But four months after the opening of the Riverside on the James, only one small tenant has signed on: McAlister's Deli, leasing only a small percentage of the planned 70,000 square feet of retail space in the building.

Cordish Vice President Reed Cordish says the new tenants, which would bring dining and entertainment offerings to the complex, would occupy a combined total of about 25,000 to 30,000 square feet of the existing space and would be expected to open for business by June. All told, Riverside on the James includes about 700,000 square feet of mixed-use space, including an office tower and 122 condominiums.

All the condo units have been sold, and 92 percent of the office space is leased, says Michael Campbell, vice president of Daniel Corp., the developer that's managing Riverside's residential and office space.

Campbell says there's been a low retail occupancy so far because the development just opened in July, and "retail typically follows office and residential."

Cordish says that finally having a finished office and condo project to showcase played a major role in bringing his prospects to the table.

McAlister's Deli opened Nov. 7, occupying half of its 3,600 square feet of leased space. The deli's owner, Harry Handshaw, says he plans to sublet the rest to another small restaurateur or retailer.

Deli customers have included construction workers and employees of nearby companies, including offices in the Riverside tower, Handshaw says.

"It's a little slower than I had originally anticipated, but I started with a soft opening," he says. "Sales have improved every day." — Jack Cooksey

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