While the Liacouras Walk project is no longer limping along to completion, its progress can hardly be defined as anything more than a casual stride.
After months of delays, the vacant storefronts that have been emitting the sounds of sawing and hammering may soon be filled with bustling students eager to spend their money.
The wait, however, will be just a bit longer.
According to Robert Hoe, one of three partners of Campus Walk Limited Partnership, students eager for convenience and proximity will be happy to hear that 7-11 is scheduled to open its doors on or before March 15.
But that may be the only opening they see for months.
Hoe said that there is no firm opening date for Dunkin’ Donuts, Togos Sandwich and Baskin Robbins. He did give the project a tentative three months until completion, however. All three stores will be sharing a space, and that is where the problems arose.
“We knew they wanted more than one building,” said Hoe, whose company leases the buildings to interested businesses. “As soon as the lease was signed, we took out all of the walls.”
Campus Walk hired contractors to knock down the load-bearing walls to turn three separate brick townhomes into a single, larger space. With the Conwell Inn rooms and Temple offices already open and being used, the contractors had to be mindful.
“This is not dangerous work,” said Hoe. “[But] we want to maintain the integrity of the buildings. It’s work that needs to be done carefully.”
And, to the dismay of eager students, slowly.
“This is quite extensive work in their space. It’s a pretty delicate operation,” he said, referring to the involved renovations that are currently being done. “These are existing buildings; renovations often take longer.”
Once these stores open, they will fill out what is being called the “south side” of Liacouras Walk, joining the already open Conwell Inn, PNC Bank and VoiceStream retailer.
Richard Rumer, Temple’s associate vice president for business services, pointed out that the agreements with 7-11 and Dunkin’ Donuts were not “traditional leases.”
“[These companies] weren’t used to going into pre-existing stores,” he said. “It has taken a lot longer than anyone has anticipated. The time table we’re on now, we’re pretty comfortable with.”
Campus Walk signed a long-term lease with Temple, giving them sole responsibility of the buildings and the grounds. This means they are the developers and are responsible for any construction that needs to be done to fit with the needs of their tenants.
The future of the “north side” is a bit foggier. The anticipated Pizza Hut, which was to be located in the large glass corner building across from the 7-11, is no longer part of the project.
According to Hoe, the local Pizza Hut franchisee declared bankruptcy and opted out of the lease.
Hoe believes that what will be offered in its place will “probably be a
better product than Pizza Hut” and has spoken to national and regional chains as well as sole proprietors. While he declined to elaborate on whom he had spoken to, he did say that one idea was for an “Italian bistro concept.”
As for the rest of the space, there are three openings. Philly Steak and Gyro will no longer be part of the strip. Master Wok and Mailboxes, etc. are still interested, but leases have not been signed. Right now, the only store to open on that side is the Campus Cleaners.
“We’re pretty close to signing three other leases to fill out the space,” said Hoe. He declined to say which companies were close to signing, but did say that one would be a food service and the remaining two would be “other” services. He felt two of the three would sign leases in the next two weeks.
Hoe said that these stores would be able to “function within the pre-existing structures” and should open within 60 to 90 days after signing leases.