Janaf stays strong, steady, focused

June 28, 2010

In the last several years, Janaf Shopping Yard has added a number of retailers that have changed the face of the Norfolk shopping center. The outdoor center with more than 90 retailers, whose revenue increased from 2008 to 2009, is in a highly traveled stretch of the Military Highway corridor.

"The location is good in terms of the retail region and it has a convenience factor to it," said Chuck Rigney, assistant director of the Norfolk Department of Development.

From a retail perspective, he said, Janaf has become "an extraordinarily important corridor" for the city.

Janaf Shopping Yard benefits by being at the intersection of two major highways: Virginia Beach Boulevard and Military Highway. Interstate entrances onto Military also help.

"The traffic counts are terrific, and that's what retailers want," Rigney said. "I think Janaf has shown a history of re-creating itself. "

He also said that "while Janaf has had to readjust to changing retail conditions, they seem to find a way to reinvent themselves periodically."

Janaf, an acronym for Joint Army Navy Air Force, was formerly an airfield landing space. Since the shopping center was built in 1959, a number of tenants have come and gone. McKinley Inc., a Michigan-based real estate company, acquired Janaf in 1991 and still owns it.

Figures from the Norfolk Commissioner of Revenue, as well as annual sales and revenue reports from Norfolk financial districts, indicate that Janaf is doing well. The district is one of two in the Military Highway Corridor that showed an increase in tax revenue. Janaf had a 1.4 percent increase from 2008 to 2009 - $6,928,629 in fiscal year 2008 and $7,025,598 for 2009.

The Lake Wright corridor was the only other corridor to show an increase, 1.5 percent. The Military Circle, Broad Creek, Norfolk Commerce Park and Bromley districts all showed revenue drops of less than 2 percent in the same time frame, while the Military Square district had the biggest drop with a 10.7 percent decrease from 2008 to 2009.

The Janaf sector was second only to downtown Norfolk in city revenue, Rigney said.

"Interstate 264 to Northampton Boulevard is a tremendous tax revenue for the city. In terms of overall revenue, it is the number-two revenue [source] in the city."

Janaf's property manager, Diane O'Brien-Bolin of McKinley Inc., said that the shopping center has endured because it's diverse and adapts to change.

"We never say no," O'Brien-Bolin said. "If we need to expand and knock out the back [of a store] and make it bigger - that's all a part of the excitement of Janaf keeping up."

The face of the 1 million-square-foot center has changed over time.

"Janaf has been a first for a lot of tenants that come [to Norfolk]," she said.

Some Norfolk "firsts" for Janaf were Olive Garden, Sports Authority and Old Navy.

Mike Gurley of S.L. Nusbaum Realty Co. has helped in Janaf's transformation. Gurley has been leasing Janaf tenants for almost 10 years. McKinley handles the property management side, while Nusbaum deals solely with leasing.

"When I took over the shopping center, the whole right side was vacant," said Gurley about Janaf almost a decade ago. "The Montgomery Ward and HQ buildings were vacant - so it was in need of some work."

The large Montgomery Ward space was daunting. Gurley said that typically "there aren't that many 160,000-square-foot tenants running around."

So smaller stores were used to fill the large void. By 2005, K&G Fashion Superstore and Shoe Carnival were in the Ward space. Gurley said the retail value of the space improved through use of smaller retailers.

The new tenants played off existing stores in Janaf, by requesting storefronts that would face retailers across the street. Gurley recalled that Shoe Carnival felt it was crucial "that TJ Maxx customers see [their] sign as soon as they walk outside the door."

Currently, the former HQ space is a BJ's Wholesale Club.

The most recent major retail additions in Janaf occurred between 2006 and 2008. Nusbaum replaced the former Circuit City space, over 20,000 square feet, with Petco. In late 2007 through 2008, a new development was built and inhabited by Qdoba, Panera Bread and Navy Federal Credit Union. Gurley said the rest of the spaces were leased less than a year after the newcomers arrived.

O'Brien-Bolin, the property manager, said the change is reflective of Janaf "trying to stay with the times and get with things that the market is demanding." She said that the credit union space "is the perfect place for them to be, to draw in the military."

Other recent retail changes along Military Highway include facelifts for Walmart and Target, which both underwent construction in search of a fresh look.

Rigney said that while Janaf's retail growth "could have been more robust" for the 2008 to 2009 fiscal year, the corridor shows that it's "doing a good job of staying on the latest trends in retail," despite the economy.

As for the future, Rigney said, "We think it's a good sign that we're seeing some new life in the economy; 2010 is the beginning of a recovery, and we are hoping that by 2011 the worst will be over." nib

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