Belk will close Madison Square Mall location after Bridge Street store opens in 2014 (updated)

Belk logo.jpgHUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Belk is closing its store in Madison Square Mall and casting its lot with the newer, trendier Bridge Street Town Centre.

The moves were announced Friday afternoon — less than 24 hours after the Huntsville City Council approved $4 million in utility and drainage improvements sought by the owners of Bridge Street.

Along with Belk, the outdoor shopping center says it will add 45,000 square feet of additional retail space and a large chain restaurant by March 31, 2015.

Most of the picturesque manmade lake on the west side of Bridge Street will be drained and filled to make way for the new shopping and dining. Only a tiny finger of water will remain near Connors Steak Seafood. The lake east of the pedestrian bridge will be left as is.

Bridge Street plans to add approximately 900 new parking spaces by turning the surface lot outside Red Robin Gourmet Burgers into a two-story garage. A new surface lot is planned for the grassy area behind Designer Shoe Warehouse.

“We are grateful to city leaders for embracing this expansion,” said John Neutzling, chief operating officer of Miller Capital Advisory. The suburban Chicago-based firm bought Bridge Street earlier this year on behalf of Institutional Mall Investors.

“We view Huntsville as a dynamic and growing community,” Neutzling said Friday, “and we look forward to a long and prosperous relationship with the city and the community.”

Institutional Mall Investors, or IMI, also owns Riverchase Galleria in Hoover.

Belk said its new Bridge Street store, targeted for a fall 2014 grand opening, will cost $20 million.

Jan Clevenger, who chairs Belk’s Birmingham-based western division, said the 170,000-square-foot store will offer “a fabulous new shopping environment featuring expanded selections of premier fashion merchandise with more brands and styles that our customers are looking for.”

Belk said its Madison Square Mall location will remain open until the Bridge Street store is ready. There are no plans to close the Belk in Parkway Place, which was remodeled last year.

Huntsville will spend a maximum of $4 million bringing utilities to the Belk site and installing an underground culvert to divert storm runoff to a city-owned lake nearby. The city is obligated to have those things done by July 1, 2013.

In addition to Belk, IMI promises to bring in a large sit-down restaurant new to the Huntsville market.

The contract also references a future expansion of Bridge Street that would include another 50,000 square feet of retail space or a second hotel. The 210-room Westin Huntsville opened at Bridge Street in April 2008.

Shane Davis, the city’s director of urban development, said Huntsville will pay for the utility and drainage work with proceeds from past Cummings Research Park land sales. Bridge Street occupies the southeast corner of the research park.

Mayor Tommy Battle said at Thursday’s council meeting that sales taxes on construction materials should net the city well over $1 million. Once the new stores and restaurant open, officials expect sales tax collections to jump $550,000 to $600,000 per year.

“A three- to four-year payback is kind of what we look for in these processes,” said Battle.

The council approved the development deal 4-0, with Culver, Bill Kling, John Olshefski and Mark Russell all in favor. Councilman Richard Showers left the meeting early and did not vote.

Updated at 6:28 p.m. with quotes from Belk executive Jan Clevenger, information on new Bridge Street parking, details on city’s development agreement with shopping center owner Miller Capital Advisory.

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