Target projects Brookwood Village opening date

brookwood redevelopment.JPGUtility work is under way before an old portion of the Colonial Brookwood Village development can be demolished. The shopping center will get a new Target store that will be elevated above ground-level parking. (The Birmingham News / Bernard Troncale) BIRMINGHAM, Alabama Target will join the lineup at Colonial Brookwood Village in 2013, opening a store that will be the first of its kind for the retailer in Alabama.

The 140,000-square-foot store will be elevated above ground-level parking. A two-story glassed-in atrium will connect the parking area and the store, with escalators and elevators to ferry people and shopping carts between the two levels.

Target’s plan to build a store at the mall has been public record for more than a year, since the Homewood City Council approved more than $10 million in incentives for the project in September 2010.

But Minneapolis-based Target and mall owner Colonial Properties Trust are now officially confirming those plans and revealing new details about the project.

The store format that Target is using at Brookwood was driven by space issues, said Ken Marshall, executive vice president of Colonial Properties Trust.

“If we were to put their store down on the ground, we would have to provide all of the parking in front of the store,” he said. “This is a solution that Target has used at numerous locations across the country when they’re looking at smaller, more urban sites.”

The retailer has a similar store in Chicago, he said.

The Target will be built on the western side of the mall at the site of the stand-alone building that used to house Vincent’s Market and other retailers.

Prep work for demolition at the site is now under way. Construction of the store is expected to start later this year, with a projected opening date of March, 2013.
 
While the store will not be a SuperTarget, it will include an expanded grocery section, including fresh foods such as produce, meat and baked goods. It will employ about 200 people.

The addition of Target represents Colonial Properties Trust’s efforts to ensure that the 37-year-old enclosed mall, as well as other retailers and restaurants on its site, stay relevant for local shoppers, Marshall said.

“We’re committed to always look at how we can make Brookwood better, how we can make Brookwood more relevant, as the shopping habits of people have changed over the years,” he said.

Those changing habits include a stronger preference for open-air centers, where people can drive up to a particular store instead of walking through a large mall.

For Brookwood, a dramatic facelift came in 2001, when a streetscape was added along the front of the mall, featuring stores that open to the street and several restaurants that have become local favorites.

target map.JPGView full sizeCompetition
Still, Brookwood faces competition for shoppers and tenants from other local retail venues, particularly The Summit, an open-air shopping center that’s just a short drive away on U.S. 280.

A key advantage for Brookwood, however, is its location among the wealthy enclaves of Homewood, Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills. That was attractive to Target, said Emris Graham, senior vice president for EGS Commercial Real Estate, who represents the retailer.

“We felt like it’s probably the best site in the state of Alabama for Target,” he said. “It’s right in the middle of the highest income area in the state and densely populated. It’s a tremendous opportunity for Target.”

Marshall said Brookwood also offers convenience with its location near neighborhoods and offices. And now, there will be a full complement of retail offerings at the mall, from the higher-end department stores to the discount options at Target.

“It presents a lot of offerings that we don’t currently have, and it will increase shopping frequency,” said Jim Spahn, a spokesman for Colonial Properties Trust.

Road upgrades
A series of road improvements will also be a part of the project, Marshall added. They include additional lanes on Shades Creek Parkway in front of the mall and on Brookwood Boulevard on the mall’s western perimeter.

Intersection improvements, including a traffic light at the mall entrance on Brookwood Boulevard, also are planned.

As for any expansion plans beyond Target, another office building is a likely next phase, Marshall said. The building would be similar to one on the property that opened in 2007, with retail on the ground floor.

Meanwhile, inside the mall, no physical changes are planned, but Colonial Properties Trust is always looking at the tenant mix, Marshall said. In the past year, about eight new stores have opened and one has expanded, and a Subway restaurant is set to join the food court lineup in November.

Bob Robicheaux, a retailing expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said an “upscale discounter” like Target should be a boost for Brookwood.

Many Target shoppers in the Homewood area now drive to the retailer’s store on U.S. 280, he said.

“Having a Target there will be a very good complement to the merchants in Brookwood,” Robicheaux said. “Target is definitely a destination store, and I think the mall is going to benefit from additional traffic throughout the year.”

Join the conversation by clicking to comment or email Kent at
dkent@bhamnews.com.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2011/10/target_projects_brookwood_vill.html

Target projects Brookwood Village opening date

brookwood redevelopment.JPGUtility work is under way before an old portion of the Colonial Brookwood Village development can be demolished. The shopping center will get a new Target store that will be elevated above ground-level parking. (The Birmingham News / Bernard Troncale) BIRMINGHAM, Alabama Target will join the lineup at Colonial Brookwood Village in 2013, opening a store that will be the first of its kind for the retailer in Alabama.

The 140,000-square-foot store will be elevated above ground-level parking. A two-story glassed-in atrium will connect the parking area and the store, with escalators and elevators to ferry people and shopping carts between the two levels.

Target’s plan to build a store at the mall has been public record for more than a year, since the Homewood City Council approved more than $10 million in incentives for the project in September 2010.

But Minneapolis-based Target and mall owner Colonial Properties Trust are now officially confirming those plans and revealing new details about the project.

The store format that Target is using at Brookwood was driven by space issues, said Ken Marshall, executive vice president of Colonial Properties Trust.

“If we were to put their store down on the ground, we would have to provide all of the parking in front of the store,” he said. “This is a solution that Target has used at numerous locations across the country when they’re looking at smaller, more urban sites.”

The retailer has a similar store in Chicago, he said.

The Target will be built on the western side of the mall at the site of the stand-alone building that used to house Vincent’s Market and other retailers.

Prep work for demolition at the site is now under way. Construction of the store is expected to start later this year, with a projected opening date of March, 2013.
 
While the store will not be a SuperTarget, it will include an expanded grocery section, including fresh foods such as produce, meat and baked goods. It will employ about 200 people.

The addition of Target represents Colonial Properties Trust’s efforts to ensure that the 37-year-old enclosed mall, as well as other retailers and restaurants on its site, stay relevant for local shoppers, Marshall said.

“We’re committed to always look at how we can make Brookwood better, how we can make Brookwood more relevant, as the shopping habits of people have changed over the years,” he said.

Those changing habits include a stronger preference for open-air centers, where people can drive up to a particular store instead of walking through a large mall.

For Brookwood, a dramatic facelift came in 2001, when a streetscape was added along the front of the mall, featuring stores that open to the street and several restaurants that have become local favorites.

target map.JPGView full sizeCompetition
Still, Brookwood faces competition for shoppers and tenants from other local retail venues, particularly The Summit, an open-air shopping center that’s just a short drive away on U.S. 280.

A key advantage for Brookwood, however, is its location among the wealthy enclaves of Homewood, Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills. That was attractive to Target, said Emris Graham, senior vice president for EGS Commercial Real Estate, who represents the retailer.

“We felt like it’s probably the best site in the state of Alabama for Target,” he said. “It’s right in the middle of the highest income area in the state and densely populated. It’s a tremendous opportunity for Target.”

Marshall said Brookwood also offers convenience with its location near neighborhoods and offices. And now, there will be a full complement of retail offerings at the mall, from the higher-end department stores to the discount options at Target.

“It presents a lot of offerings that we don’t currently have, and it will increase shopping frequency,” said Jim Spahn, a spokesman for Colonial Properties Trust.

Road upgrades
A series of road improvements will also be a part of the project, Marshall added. They include additional lanes on Shades Creek Parkway in front of the mall and on Brookwood Boulevard on the mall’s western perimeter.

Intersection improvements, including a traffic light at the mall entrance on Brookwood Boulevard, also are planned.

As for any expansion plans beyond Target, another office building is a likely next phase, Marshall said. The building would be similar to one on the property that opened in 2007, with retail on the ground floor.

Meanwhile, inside the mall, no physical changes are planned, but Colonial Properties Trust is always looking at the tenant mix, Marshall said. In the past year, about eight new stores have opened and one has expanded, and a Subway restaurant is set to join the food court lineup in November.

Bob Robicheaux, a retailing expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said an “upscale discounter” like Target should be a boost for Brookwood.

Many Target shoppers in the Homewood area now drive to the retailer’s store on U.S. 280, he said.

“Having a Target there will be a very good complement to the merchants in Brookwood,” Robicheaux said. “Target is definitely a destination store, and I think the mall is going to benefit from additional traffic throughout the year.”

Join the conversation by clicking to comment or email Kent at
dkent@bhamnews.com.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2011/10/target_projects_brookwood_vill.html

Steel exports booming at Port of Mobile

steel imports graphicView full size

MOBILE, Alabama — With a domestic market still struggling to recover from the recession, Alabama’s steel producers are looking abroad.

All along the banks of the Mobile River, warehouses are stuffed full of steel waiting to be loaded onto ships to be carried to Mexico, South America, even Egypt and India.

The surge in export business is driven by several factors. First, ThyssenKrupp AG is sending quantities of steel overseas as it gears up production. Second, the weak dollar and greater economic strength abroad make American steel more attractive, although on balance the U.S. still imports more of the industrial building block than it sends out.

“Export is part of our business plan,” said Bob Holt, vice president of sales for ThyssenKrupp Steel USA, which processes carbon steel in Calvert. “It fluctuates based on the opportunities that are out there.”

Right now, observers say a surplus of steel is helping to drive down prices in the United States, in part because ThyssenKrupp and two other large steel mills are adding production. Severstal OAO opened an expansion of its Columbus, Miss., plant this summer, and new owners have put the Sparrows Point mill in Baltimore back into service.

With prices in the United States lower than abroad for many common grades of steel, many producers are looking overseas.

“One of the somewhat bright spots is exports have been rising,” said Nancy Gravatt, spokeswoman for the American Iron and Steel Institute, a trade group based in Washington, D.C. “I think that is true across the overall market.”

Overall, more than 20 percent of the steel used in the U.S. continues to be imported, an underlying trade deficit that has held true for years.

Imports fell sharply during the recession, falling close to balance with exports in mid-2009. Since then, the gap has widened again as the economy has recovered, but exports have also risen. Exports in July were 17 percent greater than a year earlier, measured by weight, according to Commerce Department numbers.

As ThyssenKrupp’s Calvert plant tries to build its business, Holt said the company has turned to overseas customers “more than we planned.”

“I would not say it’s hugely significant,” he said. “The whole plan has changed a little bit. I think we will always have some part of our business going to export.”

Holt said ThyssenKrupp has some advantages as an exporter. It’s close to a port, meaning it doesn’t cost a lot of money to transport the steel to where it can be loaded on a ship. ThyssenKrupp also has a long tradition of exporting from Germany, meaning it already has trading contacts in many countries.

Excluding the semi-finished slabs that ThyssenKrupp is importing from Brazil for the Calvert plant, the Port of Mobile is now exporting more steel than it is importing, said Jimmy Lyons, director of the Alabama State Port Authority.

“There are a lot of other places in the world that are doing a lot better than we are,” Lyons said, saying the strong economies of developing nations have created demand.

The port handled about 500,000 tons of steel in a typical year in the past, Lyons said. This year, the port will handle more than 1 million tons “easily,” he said. Counting the ThyssenKrupp-bound slabs, the amount would be more than 3 million tons.

Census Bureau figures show Mobile exported 16,190 metric tons of flat-rolled carbon steel in July, making it the nation’s No. 1 exporting port for that variety of steel.

Lyons said that the port would like to build a dedicated steel facility instead of using warehouses built for the forest products trade. Because steel is so much heavier, it can’t be stacked high without damaging the relatively light foundations of the warehouses.

“When you look at production in Alabama,” he said, “I think we’re going to be in the steel exporting business for a long, long time.”

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2011/10/steel_exports_booming_at_port.html

View the e-edition of the Sunday Press-Register

This is the second Sunday in a row that I have not received my Sunday paper. Also, my daily paper is getting later and later. When too late or no delivery, I go buy one from the corner store and deduct the price from my next quarterly bill. If enough people do this, maybe they will straighten out.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2011/10/oct_30_2011_press-register_lat.html

Sexy Realtors calendar raises cash for breast cancer in Alabama

View full sizeSome of the Realtors who appear in the 2012 Sexy Men of Real Estate calendar from left are Spence Monroe of Ashurst Niemeyer; Rodney Hamrick, Better Homes Land; Jay Jennings, Pendulum Properties; Will Burnette, REMAX of Gulf Shores; and Rance Reehl, Coldwell Banker Reehl Properties. The calendars cost $10 and were produced by the Women’•s Council of Realtors Baldwin County Chapter. Most of the proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Awareness Fund. Photo taken Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, in Robertsdale, Alabama. (Press-Register/Mike Kittrell)

GULF SHORES, Alabama — Jay Jennings stretched the limits of the keep-your-shirt-on rule while posing for the Sexy Men of Real Estate calendar.

Mr. September, AKA Jennings, unbuttoned his shirt to reveal some skin during a photo shoot on the beach.

“I’ve gotten razzed a little about that,” said the agent at Pendulum Properties in Gulf Shores. Modeling for the calendar “was a little out of my comfort zone,” he admitted with a grin. “But it was for a good cause.”

The 2012 calendars were released this month by the Women’s Council of Realtors Baldwin County chapter. Part of the $10 cost supports efforts to improve breast cancer awareness.

The calendars are available at the Baldwin County Association of Realtors office, 23280 Baldwin County 65 in Robertsdale, or emailing Leni Atkinson at baldwinwcr@gmail.com.

“We are going to make this a tradition and do it every year,” said Atkinson, the women’s council president-elect and vice president of membership.

The Realtor models were game to help the charity and report that they have kept a sense of humor while signing calendars for friends and family.

“It’s hard to get used to being Mr. January versus The King,” joked Rodney Hamrick, a Realtor at Better Homes Land in Fairhope, who has a second career as an Elvis Presley tribute artist. The longtime fan of Elvis sports extra long sideburns for his shows. The calendar photo shows his performance as an opening act for Earth Wind Fire at the National Association of Realtors convention in New Orleans last fall. He was one of six finalists in the Realtors Got Talent event.

Will Burnette of REMAX of Gulf Shores has modeled for the Elite Agency in Atlanta, but had no idea his photo would appear as Mr. November. It was a surprise planned by his girlfriend, Gloria Sims Crump, a REMAX agent in Gulf Shores and secretary for the women’s council.

“She stole one of my photos and put it in there,” Burnette said, smiling.

Rance Reehl of Coldwell Banker Reehl Properties in Fairhope said his staff roped him into the project. At 51, he’s Mr. October and says he’s probably the oldest of the calendar guys. But, he added, “it’s all about the cause.”

Spence Monroe of Ashurst Niemeyer in Fairhope appears as Mr. August wearing work attire, including a long-sleeved oxford shirt in the appropriate color of pink in honor of breast cancer awareness.

As president of the Baldwin County Realtors group, Monroe said it was his suggestion that the models pose with shirts on to keep the calendar tasteful.

Other agents appearing include: Mr. February, Nick Wilmott, Community Senior Life based in Orange Beach; Mr. March, Thomas Galloney, Coldwell Banker United Commercial in Daphne; Mr. April, Charlie Dodson, Bellator Real Estate Development in Spanish Fort; Mr. May, Jason Tickle, Daniel Corp., oversees Colony at the Grand in Point Clear; Mr. June, Roe Collins, a drummer for Chevy 6 for 32 years, and associate broker at Carney Realty in Gulf Shores; Mr. July, Steve Barfield, Coldwell Banker United in Daphne; and Mr. December, Don Jones, Baldwin Real Estate Academy.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2011/10/sexy_realtors_calendar_raise_c.html

NBC hires banking veteran; Alabama National Bancorp team regroups

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Longtime Birmingham banker Will Matthews has rejoined his old teammates at the bank now known as National Bank of Commerce, completing the reformation of the management team that led to Alabama National Bancorp’s rich success.

Matthews said Friday he is taking over immediately as chief financial officer of the Birmingham-based operator of six branches statewide. Matthews had been serving as a director of the bank while also working at Birmingham hedge fund New Capital Partners.

At NBC, Matthews joins Chief Executive John Holcomb, President Richard Murray, Birmingham city president Robert Aland and a host of others who made Birmingham’s Alabama National Bancorp the toast of the 1990s and beyond for its investors. The publicly traded operator of about 100 branches was sold to North Carolina-based RBC Banks in 2007 for $80 a share, double its closing price before the deal was announced.

“New Capital is a great firm, but I have been working with these guys at National Bank of Commerce forever and doing so again feels like home to me,” said Matthews.

The Alabama National team reformed last year to conduct a financial and operational makeover of Birmingham’s Red Mountain Bank. By summer of 2010, the 2004 start-up that ran into hard times, with loans not being paid as agreed of 3.3 percent and losses during four out of the previous six quarters.

That’s when an investor group led by Birmingham iron pipe magnate Phillip McWane, of McWane Inc., bought a controlling interest, investing about $60 million. McWane was the largest shareholder in Alabama National, and brought in that company’s management team, after their non-compete clauses with RBC Banks expired.

Matthews said the new National Bank of Commerce is still working to clean up loans not being paid as agreed and improving earnings. The company was at about break-even for the year on June 30, the last period for which the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has statistics.

Last year, it had a loss of $439,000 for the same period, according to the FDIC. Loans not being paid as agreed fell to 1.7 percent of loans as of June 30, from 3.3 percent a year earlier.

“We are focused on growing and becoming a meaningful statewide presence,” Matthews said.

Join the conversation by clicking to comment or email Hubbard at
rhubbard@bhamnews.com.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2011/10/nbc_hires_banking_veteran_alab.html

On the Record with Donald R. Rice

When Donald Rice of Birmingham heard in mid-September that Congress was considering legislation that he felt would hurt small investment advisory firms like his company, he decided to make his voice heard.

don-rice-2011.JPGDonald R. Rice, Money Management Services

Rice, who has operated Money Management Services on Southbridge Parkway since 1992, felt the extra federal regulations would put an unnecessary financial burden on small investment firms, possibly driving many of them out of business. He took his concerns to U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee.

To his surprise, Rice received a call a day later from Bachus’ Washington office, requesting a meeting. Within a week, Rice and a partner met with members of Bachus’ staff in Birmingham, and the following week they flew to Washington, D.C., where they met personally with Bachus.

Over the past few weeks, Rice has been in touch with Bachus’ staff, helping educate the congressman on the issue.

In an interview, Rice talked about his experience working with a senior member of Alabama’s congressional delegation and what he feels political leaders in Washington can do to help boost the struggling stock market.

Rice, who owns a horse farm and grew up on a rural farm in Walker County, also weighed in on Alabama’s immigration law and how it is affecting state farmers.

What went through your mind when you heard back so soon after reaching out to Congressman Bachus’ office?

I thought it would probably be a summer intern returning the call just to appease me. But it didn’t take long before I realized that the person on other end had a good understanding of the subject matter. Jason Goggins, who is the Republican counsel at the U.S. House of Representatives, Financial Services Committee, and I talked around 30 minutes and he had a lot of good questions.

Explain how legislation to appoint the current Self Regulatory Organization (SRO) to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) rather than leaving the SEC as the examiner for registered investment advisers would impact your industry?

According to stats, the brokerage industry has been losing assets to fee advisers for years. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is the regulatory authority over broker dealers. There are very few if any one- to two- or three-person broker dealers left — most are huge.

The small broker dealers have been priced out of business through compliance with FINRA rules. Ninety percent of all fee-only registered investment advisers are small entrepreneurs, who are uniquely different.

FINRA rules, which are numerous, are one size fits all. FINRA does not understand what we do and why it so critical to be held to the highest standard of care and process we go through to make sure that standard is upheld with each client.

FINRA has deep pockets. A recent national article noted that FINRA top executives made $35 million per year. Mary Shapiro left FINRA to head up the SEC and her severance package was approximately $8.9 million. They are a not for profit, although that maybe questionable.

I told Congressman Bachus that it would be like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Soon all the little hens will be gone.

Another disturbing factor with this current thought process is that the cost to the general public on the fee advisers’ side would more than likely increase.

How did this bill come about?

The 2,300 page Frank-Dodd Act required that the SEC recommend to Congress ways to increase adviser examinations and that Congress propose and pass legislation to accomplish the purpose. The SEC in March 2011 outlined to Congress options to consider:

No. 1: Authorize the SEC to charge a user’s fee on registered investment advisers to fund the SEC examinations.

No. 2: Authorize the establishment of one or more Self Regulatory Organizations (SRO) to examine all RIA’s with oversight by the SEC.

No. 3: Authorize FINRA to examine all dually licensed registrants. Hybrids are those who wear both hats, they sell products and manage assets on fee bases.

Do you see signs of stabilization in the stock market, or do you expect turmoil to continue into next year?

We would expect more volatility in the coming months. Given that the economic landscape is having to deal with so many uncertainties as it relates to the lethargic action of our legislators, it is forcing investors to straddle the fence when it comes to possible economic outcomes.

Until our legislators can get their act together, as to the tax bill, the deficit reduction bill, and even our deficit problems, we would expect to see continued turmoil in the markets. As long as you’ve got the major headwinds of high unemployment, a depressed housing market, and frozen credit, you’ll see the recent turmoil continue.

I understand you own a farm. What are your thoughts about the impact of the immigration law, which has many farmers in Alabama saying they are having difficulty finding workers as immigrants, both legal and illegal, flee the state?

I grew up on a chicken farm in rural Walker County. It was and still is a seven-day-a-week job. Labor was a problem way back then, and it was the reason my father finally got out the chicken business.

It may ultimately cause the commodity prices locally to rise over time. Consumption is a large factor in Alabama Gross Domestic Product and if large numbers leave the state that could affect every business.

Join the conversation by clicking to comment or email Williams at rwilliams@bhamnews.com.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2011/10/on_the_record_with_donald_rice.html

Harbert International to build GE Aviation facility

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — The ground that will be broken for the $50 million GE Aviation facility may be Auburn dirt, but the company turning it and building the project after the ceremony is long over is Birmingham’s own B.L. Harbert International.

“It’s a big, big deal for us and the state of Alabama,” said Jim Rein, chief operating officer for B.L. Harbert International. “It’s an Alabama effort and our intention is to use all Alabama subs. We intend to show GE what Alabama and our company can do.”

The 300,000-square-foot engine coatings plant was designed by Montgomery-based Goodwyn Mills Cawood and will likely require several subcontractors who will employ hundreds if not thousands of workers.

It is the latest reminder of how an economic development victory in the state is often a big win for companies in Birmingham and throughout Alabama.

“We’ve been working to win this for quite a long time and the competition was from out of state,” Rein said. “It’s going to be state-of-the-art. It’s going to be awesome.”

Rick Kennedy, spokesman for GE Aviation, said the company builds and maintains engines used in commercial and military aircraft and he expects the full array of engines will be part of the Auburn plant’s work.

GE has around 18,000 engines in service today and that figure is expected to rise to 24,000 by 2015, he said.
 
As one would expect, jet engine parts are very precise and are made of the latest in lightweight alloys, so the Auburn plant will be using cutting-edge technologies and processes, requiring well-trained workers.

The plant is expected to open by the end of 2012 with a few dozen workers in place.

“We will start doing basic hiring and by late next year we will have between 20 and 40 people,” Kennedy said. “We will do some initial hiring of some professionals and hourly workers. That will grow to between 300 and 400 employees by the end of the decade based on the volume of work we have.”

Kennedy said while B.L Harbert is working the ground to build the new Auburn facility, GE Aviation will be working the grounds at university campuses to find workers.

“Next week we will be doing some recruiting at Auburn University and the University of Alabama,” he said.

CONTACT MICHAEL TOMBERLIN
Michael Tomberlin covers economic development, commercial real estate, construction, media and advertising.
Contact him at 325-3436 or mtomberlin@bhamnews.com
Follow him on Twitter: @MAJ_Chicken

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2011/10/harbert_international_to_build.html

Halloween spending could be a treat for Huntsville retailers

Party City.jpgMindy and Ben Gordon of Brownsboro help their twin sons, Timothy, far left, and Jonathan pick out costumes at Party City to wear to a fall festival tonight at West Huntsville Baptist Church. (The Huntsville Times/Robin Conn)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Ann Askea looked through the racks in Enchanted Masquerade, trying to find costumes to rent for her and her husband, Steve.

The Cullman couple usually cobble together some costumes for the annual Halloween party at Friendship Baptist Church, but this year Askea wants to go all out for the occasion.

She and a dozen adults and children were in the costume-rental shop one afternoon last week to pick up makeup, costumes, hats and wigs for Halloween, which could turn out to be a treat for merchants in a recovering economy.

Halloween remains the second-largest, event-driven season for retailers, according to Mickey Gee, executive in residence at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Business.

The National Retail Federation expects that the average consumer will spend about $72 on Halloween decorations, costumes and candy this year, up from around $66 last year. Total spending is projected to reach nearly $6.9 billion this year.

That’s more than double the amount that was spent in 2005, said Gee, a retailer in the Birmingham area for 40 years.

Americans will spend $1 billion on children’s costumes alone, up from $840 million last year, and another $1.21 billion on adult costumes, up from $990 million last year. The federation’s survey predicts that consumers will even pay $310 million for pet costumes.

“People like a diversion,” particularly during a down economy, Gee said.

Diana Orick, who opened Enchanted Masquerade in 1980, agrees, saying that Halloween allows people to escape, at least for a little while.

“There’s a kid in everybody,” she said, “no matter what age.”

Ann Askea.jpgAnn Askea looks over the selection of costumes at Enchanted Masquerade on Max Luther Drive in Huntsville. The shop has 6,000 to 8,000 costumes available to rent. (The Huntsville Times/Eric Schultz)

Retail experts say Halloween spending can actually be an indicator of what’s ahead for the Christmas holiday season.

“Halloween sales are such a reflection of consumer confidence,” said Gee, adding that 75 percent of the economy is driven by consumer spending.

“It’s my theory that, if Halloween sales do well,” Gee said, then the retail federation’s outlook for 2011 holiday retail sales might improve. Earlier this month, the federation said its expects holiday spending this year will increase 2.8 percent to $465.6 billion.

Halloween has become more of an adult celebration, said Nancy King Dennis, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Retail Association. “And it kind of kicks off the holiday season.”

Some retailers are reporting healthy sales.

“Even with the economy like it has been, we’re doing very well,” said John Walker, the manager at the Party City store at Valley Bend at Jones Farm in Huntsville.

Late last week, the store was getting slammed with last-minute shoppers, with the biggest sales in costumes and accessories.

“We’re having a good season,” said Wesley Dixon, the store team leader at the Target store on University Drive. The store has experienced a slight increase in Halloween-related sales over past years, he said.

Attractions were also seeing more traffic.

Shane Dabbs opened Disturbia last year in a vacant building on North Memorial Parkway and reopened the 40,000-square-foot haunted attraction this year on Sept. 23.

The number of visitors at midweek last week at the attraction – ranked No. 19 on hauntworld.com’s “Best Haunts in the Country” – was up about 25 percent compared to last year, he said.

This is also the second year for The Haunted Gin in Meridianville.

“We’ve seen more people this year,” said Harlon Tyree, one of the owners. “This is our last weekend, and hopefully we’ll have a good turnout.”

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2011/10/halloween_spending_could_be_a.html

Infirmary building nets $5.5 million; tattoo and church buys

REALESTATEONLINE.JPG

MOBILE, Alabama — Florida investors paid $5.5 million for the Infirmary 65 Diagnostic Center at 3290 Dauphin St., according to Gavin Bender Sr. of Bender Real Estate Group, who represented the buyers. Bradford Ladd and B.T. Roberts of Roberts Brothers Commercial Property Management, worked for the sellers, Infirmary Health System. Bender will handle management and leasing of the 70,000-square-foot building near Interstate 65.

Exit 13 Tattoo paid $390,000 for a 6,260-square-foot building at 1110 Shelton Beach Road in Saraland, and will move there when renovations are complete, according to Greg Cawthon of Gateway Real Estate.

The 8,970-square-foot former Eight Mile United Methodist Church at 4905 St Stephens Road in Eight Mile, was purchased for $150,000 by Gary and Jean Wilson, who plan to open Isaiah 61 Ministry Center in December, according to Bill Hinton of Roberts Brothers who represented the buyers. Bob Cooper of Prudential Cooper Co., commercial division worked for the seller.

The Shrimp Basket owners have leased an 1,800-square-foot former KFC building on U.S. 90 in Tillman’s Corner and plan to open their 12th Shrimp Basket in December, according to Eddie Spence and David Cahoon, co-owners of the Gulf Shores-based restaurant chain. They are looking for sites in Gulfport and in Destin, Fla.

A local investor paid $160,000 to the town of Flomaton for a 15,000-square-foot building formerly owned by Wright PreCast Concrete on 20 acres on U.S. 31, and will use it for a construction company, according to Tim Herrington of Herrington Realty, who represented the buyer. Judy Champion of Champion Realty worked for the seller.

L B Transport, a trucking company, paid $110,000 for more than 8 acres on U.S. 43 in Creola, adjacent to its existing facility, according to Michael Taylor of Gleason Associates.

Marble Slab Creamery at 740 S. Schillinger Road has relocated to a larger , 1,620-square-foot space adjacent to Target and added the American Cookie Company to its store, according to Angela McArthur of Prudential Cooper Co. commercial division.

Divine Consignments has opened in 1,750 square feet at 2104 Airport Blvd., and MM Shoe Bar, which sells shoes and accessories, has opened in 2,500 square feet at 2106 Airport Blvd., according to George Catranis of Catranis Enterprises.

A couple from Clarksville, Tenn., paid $300,000 for the bank-owned Coastal Living “idea home” in Bon Secour Village in Gulf Shores, according to Jimmy Junkins and Bobby Hill of Century 21 Meyer Real Estate. The four-bedroom, beach-cottage-style house was featured in the magazine’s October 2007 issue. The house was owned by Bon Secour’s developers and valued at $2 million. It was furnished and held open for tours, and later leased.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2011/10/infirmary_building_nets_55_mil.html