Analysis: Pike Creek Shopping Center sticking with the basics

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The owners of the Pike Creek Shopping Center have given up on prospects for a replacement of the shuttered Kmart store or an overhaul that would combine housing and store.

Plans submitted to the New Castle County Department of Land Use call for a large portion of the former Kmart building to be demolished with a convenience store and an auto service center occupying that area of the center. Plans seem to indicate a gas station would be part of the project.

Owned by Regency Centers, the collection of retailers is located in a hilly area west of Wilmington

Plans call for removing 51,220 square feet of the Kmart store site. That would allow for the construction of a 6,425 auto service center, a 5,619 square foot convenience store, and a nearly 5,000-square-foot retail building.

Auto service centers have seen a growing business as vehicles run longer and incomes stagnate.

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From plans submitted to New Castle County

The possibility of a Target store at the site ended when the Minneapolis discounter confirmed plans to occupy the site of a former Sears at the Prices Corner Shopping Center.

The shopping center would seem like a candidate for a major makeover since it is in an area with higher incomes, especially in neighboring Hockessin, an area with few options for retail expansion. Pike Creek’s sole anchor is now Acme Markets, which is now in the suddenly hot supermarket category sought by shopping center operators.

Pike Creek, which was envisioned as a planned community, has aging housing stock and sprawls over a large, hilly area. Efforts to build new homes at the former Three Little Bakers golf course in the area have been met with fierce opposition.

The Pike Creek Shopping Center, which has seen minimal renovations over the years is an example of the sprawling strip centers that were built decades ago with minimal regard for landscaping and other aesthetics. New Castle and other counties are now pushing for mixed-use centers that combine apartments and businesses on lower floors.

Two such centers have been built near the Pike Creek Center, one anchored by an M&T Bank and the Chuck Lager bistro-pub.

As of now aging shopping centers, even those in affluent areas, are less attractive candidates for massive makeovers, due to the Covid-19 crisis and the continuing troubles of retailers and restaurants.

Meanwhile, the Prices Corner Shopping Center is expected to see a new bank branch and a Chick ‘fil A in its makeover. The future of one of its tenants, JC Penney remains murky after the retailer filed for bankruptcy protection. However, the Delaware store was not on the latest list of closings.

One possible gap in the market that might lead to a further makeover of the Pike Creek center comes in the home improvement store category, with no big-box Home Depot or Lowes stores in the immediate vicinity.

At one point, Lowes was rumored as a candidate for a store in Prices Corner. The company said it has no plans for a store at the site.

Meanwhile, State Rep., Michael Smith, is seeking a public meeting with developers to learn more abut their plans.

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