The Herald News, Wednesday, December 28, 2016 – Page A1

By Kevin P. O’Connor

Fall River – It is not quite a boom yet, but there is definitely a snap, crackle and pop to commercial development in the South End.

Traffic has increased, stores are doing well and there are few vacancies along Plymouth Avenue, Rhode Island Avenue and William S. Canning Boulevard.

And the future is bright, development officials say.

Three new stores have opened since summer in the district. The lot that once held the Laurel Lake School at the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and Laurel Avenue was purchased by First Bristol Corp. That site is now the home of an O’Reilly Auto Parts and a Dollar Tree Store.

A short distance away a Shell gas station was rebuilt as a Seasons Corner Market.

The McDonald’s Restaurant nearby is getting a facelift. And at the end of the street what was once the New Harbour Mall is now an empty shell surrounded by heavy equipment. A Market Basket store is under construction on the land that once held a Kmart. CEA Group of Cambridge announced plans to transform the New Harbour Mall to the South Coast Marketplace, with two dozen stores, a 10screen movie theater, restaurants, banks and dry cleaners.

“The South End is doing really well,” said James Karam, president of First Bristol Development.
“If you look at the shopping centers, with Burlington Coat and T.J. Maxx, they are all filled. The removal of the Harbour Mall for something better will be really good for the area.”

“There are two primary driving projects in the South End,” said Ken Fiola, executive vice president of the Bristol County EDC. “The first is the South Coast Marketplace, which will transform the former Harbour Mall.

“That will drive a lot of people to the area for entertainment and shopping.

Twin River Management Group is building a small casino on a lot in Tiverton that is just over the Fall River line. That will also bring traffic into the area, Fiola said.

“The two projects will be economic engines for job creation and also a destination for people interested in entertainment,” Fiola said.

The district depends on retail trade. The stores operating in the South End fit the latest trends in retail, Karam said.

“Neighborhood retail is doing well,” he said. “Regional malls are having a hard time. So are the big box stores. That is because of online shopping. This is the first year online shopping will exceed sales at brick-andmortar stores.”

But the stores in the South End are generally small stores that supply essentials.

“The area is surrounded by a big population and the stores serve everyday retail needs,” Karam said. “Those stores are doing well.”

Thomas St. Pierre placed his bet on that idea. He is a building contractor who constructed the plaza at 999 William S. Canning Blvd. last year. His store, Heritage Liquors, occupies half the space.

“Business has been picking up,” he said. “My business has been consistent and the traffic through here is good.”

St. Pierre still has two small storefronts to fill.

“We are working now with a couple of potential tenants,” he said. “We’ve had a fair amount of interest.”

The biggest vacancy in the area is the former Shaw’s market, 485 William S. Canning Blvd., directly across the street from the entrance to the New Harbour Mall.

That property is owned by First Bristol but the lease is still held by Shaw’s. Shaw’s personnel said they are trying to rent the property for the remainder of their lease.

Eventually that store will be filled, Karam said.

“I’m optimistic about the South End,” he said.