Clinton Plaza continues to grow, but looking to fill key void

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

September 29, 2013

The opening of White Swan earlier this month was the latest boon to the Clinton Plaza Shopping Center, which has seen Subway, Ted’s Charcoal Steakhouse and Bessie Burger, among others, take root in the last few years — the plaza’s owner said he is happy about what it has meant in jobs and tax base, but he wants more.

Clinton Plaza Shopping Center owner Robert Scott said he is currently trying to fill 27,000 square feet of vacant space, more than half of that — approximately 17,000 — being the recently vacated Advance Auto, which moved just a couple hundred yards away to a newly constructed standalone building on the roadway of U.S. 701 Business (Northeast Boulevard).

Along with the previous Advance Auto location, there are a couple others for which Scott is trying to recruit prospects. However, with White Swan, the main structure just off U.S. 701 Business in now full, with the exception of one unit left empty for the purpose of a possible expansion down the road.

“I’ve got one (vacancy), but I’m going to save it for White Swan,” said Scott. “Advance moved out so I’ve got 17,000 square feet empty. They’re paying rent until the end of the year, so I need tenants for that, and I have about another 10,000 square feet.”

Family Dollar, Southern Tire & Auto Inc. and NAPA Auto Care Center, along with Ted’s, currently makes up the back portion of the Clinton Plaza Shopping Center. The NAPA store is more retail than a full mechanic shop like Advance Auto, Scott noted.

Scott said he is advertising to find potential businesses for vacant units, the majority of which now consists of the empty Advance Auto space and a smaller unit next to it.

“We’re just looking for a good brand,” said Scott. “I don’t know what we’d get to go in there yet. It’s been a little slower than I want it, but I have some good tenants where they are now. I just need a few more tenants. It just takes a little more time than we’d like sometimes.”

The Advance Auto space is the most important for recruiting another business, and Scott hopes to find that business sooner rather than later.

“Their lease is up at the end of December, but I’d like to have somebody in there before then if I can find them,” said Scott. “You don’t ever know that.”

While there have been roadblocks along the way, the Clinton Plaza has grown substantially in recent years, despite a slow economy confronting Scott’s venture. That culminated earlier this month with the White Swan opening, which successfully filled up that primary structure built specifically to house a relocated Subway and other future businesses several years ago.

Subway was first, then Bessie Burger and, after a couple of other potential businesses between them fizzled, White Swan is expected to be around for the foreseeable future. Scott said he believed Clinton Plaza is now home to quality restaurants, translating to good business and a busy lunch rush during the week.

“The White Swan has done real good since it opened Sept. 6, and Subway has done real good and so has Bessie Burger,” said Scott. “And I knew (Ted’s) was going to be OK because he has been here all his life and he knows how to run a restaurant.”

Scott said it has not been easy in recent years to essentially build something from nothing, but he thinks it has paid dividends. He said there are some who are more pro-business than others, and some who care more about new businesses mean to a community than others might, but hopes everyone can see the value of his efforts.

“It’s generating tax revenue for the city and county and it is providing jobs for the area, so it has to have had a definite impact on the economy,” Scott said. “Just in these three restaurants here, (along with) Ted’s and Southern Tire & Auto, you probably have 100 jobs that have been created in the last three years out here. That’s not counting Advance and Family Dollar. It’s bound to have had an impact.”

The plaza’s owner can appreciate how difficult it is to try and recruit new businesses and keep them, having done much of the legwork, construction and initial recruiting for the plaza during the height of the Great Recession.

“I did it the hard way and it’s been slow,” said Scott. “And it’s still a little bit slow. I’ve had a lot of people who would rent. They didn’t have money to get started with — it takes quite a bit of money to start a new business and when you start doing upfitting for a building or start buying your equipment and stuff like that, it doesn’t take long to spend a lot of money. And a lot of people want to expand their existing business, and it’s really hard for them to do it because they don’t have the capital they need to do the expansion.”

For the Clinton Plaza and its properties, Scott said property taxes paid are now more than four times what they were three years ago. And, as far as public input to the changes along the way, “the general response has been really good,” he said.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at