Work is under way at the Mall at Sears in Midtown Anchorage on a $10 million remodel of what used to be a Carrs Safeway grocery store there.
Crews have been on site and a fence is up around much of the parking lot on the west end of the mall. Patches of pavement have been ripped up. The owner, Carr-Gottstein Properties, wants to convert it from a grocery space into a location for retail, plus changes to parking and landscaping.
But a spokeswoman for the mall isn't saying who the new tenant moving into that space might be. On Thursday, the mall's marketing director Linda Boggs said that as far as she knew a lease hasn't been signed. At this point, though, the owners are only talking to one party, she said.
"They've made it clear they want to announce (it) themselves," Boggs said, referring to the prospective retailer that could fill that space. "Just making some improvements to the space, getting ready for a prospective new tenant."
Outdoor gear co-op REI, currently located at the Northern Lights Center strip mall in Spenard, has been looking around for a potential new spot for a couple of years. Al Tamagni, president of the Midtown Community Council, said he has heard rumors that REI plans to move to the Mall at Sears.
"We've heard a rumor and sometimes you ask the question, 'Is REI going to go in there?' and the reply is, 'We have no comment,' " Tamagni said. "So that's kind of indicates that it's kind of positive."
Jon Campabello, owner of Middle Way Cafe and Hearth Artisan Pizza in the Northern Lights Center mall, also said he has heard rumors about REI leaving, and that a move sounds imminent.
"My question is, if REI does leave, what does the landlord intend to do with that space?" he said.
A spokeswoman for REI has not said that the store is planning to move.
"We have not yet signed a lease on a new location in Anchorage," said Caitlin Goettler, a spokeswoman for REI, in an email on Friday.
Mike Herzog, store manager at the Anchorage REI, said on Thursday he couldn't answer questions about a potential move, but did say the store is still looking at opportunities to relocate.
A rough estimate for the size of the current REI store is about 40,000 square feet, Herzog said. The spot being renovated at the Mall at Sears is about 41,970 square feet, and the construction will also tack on a new 8,000-square-foot storage space.
Renee Burk, building manager for the Northern Lights Center mall, said she didn't have any information about REI's plans.
Construction work at the Mall at Sears will likely "go on through the fall," Boggs said. A name change for the mall — where anchor tenant Sears closed its doors in April — is "kind of on hold until we announce the new tenant," she said.
She wouldn't say what contenders for the new name are, and couldn't give a specific time frame for when a new name would be announced.
"It depends on the tenant but I think we're getting pretty close," Boggs said. "Hopefully within weeks. But that always seems to turn into more weeks."
Meanwhile, on the other end of the mall, a Carrs-Safeway grocery is planning to move in where Sears was. A Guitar Center store has also signed a lease for a spot in the shopping center.