Does anyone smell a white elephant?
Things are going from bad to worse at the Route 19 shopping development know as The Foundry. "The Founder-y" is more like it. In the past couple of days, two of the few retailers at the site - Ross-Dress-for-Less and Bed, Bath & Beyond - have closed their doors over concerns about unstable ground under their stores. This comes on the heels of growing indications that the company developing the site, Premier Properties USA, is in such financial straits that it can't now, and might never be able, to fully develop the complex and bring in the businesses that have signed leases to set up shop there. There was great joy among my circle of friends when it was announced that Books A Million planned to come to The Foundry. Finally, a decent bookstore in Little Washington. But now I have my doubts we'll ever see it, or the Buffalo Wild Wings or Chipotle or Circuit City, etc., etc. Our business editor, Mike Bradwell, reported last month that Premier is dealing with serious financial problems, at least in part because of the national credit crunch. A couple of months ago, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Wachovia Bank filed an $80 million foreclosure lawsuit againt Premier in connection with its Bridgewater Falls shopping center in suburban Cincinnati. The completed shopping center was later placed in receivership. In all, 20 retailers have signed leases for the South Strabane location, but only four have opened. Now two of those are temporarily closed. The are no subsidence problems that we know of at J.C. Penney's and Max & Erma's, the last two businesses currently operating at the site, but they still must feel like the ground is crumbling beneath them. More stores means more traffic for all the retailers in a shopping center. Fewer stores means less traffic. Guess what Penney's and Max & Erma's are getting now. The O-R would like to tell you more about the prospects for further development at The Foundry, but the guy who runs Premier won't return our calls. No news is probably bad news.