The Madden Group to research locations in the Methuen area that would be suitable for their fourth fitness center.Tags:
Chapin suggested the Metayers consider 16,000 s/f of empty warehouse space, vacant for close to a decade, behind the closed AJ Wright in the rear of the Merrimac Plaza on Rte. 110 (180 Haverhill St.). The Metayers - who operate a second Methuen location and additional sites in Haverhill and North Andover - were interested, but only if there were front parking lot access and signage. Visibility is a tall order when discussing hidden warehouse space.
Mark Dickinson, president of Dickinson Development and a partner with the plaza's landlord, Merrimack Income Partners LP, acquired the shopping center in 1981 when it consisted of just 95,000 s/f, including a 69,000 s/f Almy's Department Store. In 1984, Dickinson expanded the plaza to 175,000 s/f to include the new 50,000 s/f Market Basket and other retail tenants.
Once TJX found a buyer for their AJ Wright lease - the Conway Store's new chain, C. W. Price which occupies about 25,000 s/f - Dickinson negotiated with Conway to give back a slice of the retail space - enough to create a corridor that leads gym members directly from the front lot to the fitness center behind the retail stores. The corridor that Dickinson built - 8 ft. wide and 100 ft. long - leads to Choice's center.
Among other enticements Dickinson used to seal the deal with Choice: The owners invested approximately $75,000 in electrical upgrades and a new sewer line to accommodate the new expanded usage. They also made room for a large sign over the store's corridor entrance.
Despite the economic downturn of recent years, Dickinson's team has managed to maintain Merrimac Plaza's 'No Vacancy' status.
"By finding a great user for space that had been vacant for so long - with all the additional business that the fitness center is bringing to the plaza - it actually feels like we've attained 110% occupancy," Mark Dickinson said.