Warwick’s Ann & Hope, once a magnet for shoppers and a forerunner to big box stores across the country, will transform into a corporate U-Haul facility for the rental of equipment, …
Warwick’s Ann & Hope, once a magnet for shoppers and a forerunner to big box stores across the country, will transform into a corporate U-Haul facility for the rental of equipment, maintenance of vehicles and self-storage units according to an application for a special use permit filed with the Zoning Board of Review and scheduled to be considered Aug. 9.
The plan is the first of three phases of development for the 22-acre site stretching between Amtrak to the west, Post Road to the east and beneath the air path to aircraft arriving and departing from TF Green’s crosswind runway.
“For many years Ann& Hope was a fixture at this property,” attorney Jon Restivo, with the law firm of Darrow Everett LLP writes in a letter outlining plans for the site. “While most Rhode Islanders grew up shopping at Ann & Hope, not everyone may be aware that Ann & Hope was one of the first stores in the country to introduce several distinctive features of a ‘big box retailer’ that have become commonplace today. Predating both Walmart and Kmart, the founders of these chains visited Ann & Hope store and modeled their own stores after Ann & Hope.”
Restivo cites the size of the building, 250,000 square feet that was considered revolutionary at its time and its vast parking lot. He goes on to point out these features have proven not to be enduring and that the collapse of giant stores has left “holes” in the community. With the advent of online shopping, accelerated by the pandemic that kept people at home, some big box stores have been subdivided into smaller retailers and converted to other uses.
Jeff Saletin, president of the Saletin Real Estate Group based in Cranston, saw the potential of the Ann & Hope site. He has specialized in bringing new life to once vibrant retail stores and shopping centers. As he explained in a recent interview, the sites are well located, but they have become “tired.” Saletin has done this before; one of his projects is the Johnston Town Center, formerly Stuart Center that sat largely vacant for 23 years.
Saletin called the Ann & Hope site a “condo” between Stop & Shop and the Chace family that built Ann & Hope. The Ann & Hope ownership of the property is listed under MMIS Realty. He said they co-owned the building although Stop & Shop never operated a supermarket from the site. The condo maintained the property. Saletin and other investors in the Crossroads Capital Fund VI LLC acquired the Stop & Shop interest. He knows the Chaces from previous dealings with Ann & Hope.
Saletin marketed the property to a number of companies including Costco that was rumored as being the future tenant. When U-Haul showed an interest, Saletin said he met with attorney K. Joseph Shekarchi and the planning department and later Mayor Frank Picozzi. He said he heard their goal to upgrade that section of Post Road, making it more appealing and business friendly.
“We understand what the mayor like and we’re doing it,” he said.
Mayor Picozzi pointed to developments on Post Road including the conversion of the former Sheraton Hotel into apartments, a hotel south of Chelo’s and a 200-unit complex for the former Laz Parking next to the Airport Connector.
“I’m very concerned about the street scaping,” Picozzi said. In addition to developments adjoining the road, Picozzi noted the state will repave the road this summer.
Plans call for a redesign of the entrance and egress to the property and a corridor of plantings and landscaping paralleling Post Road that will be implemented with the first phase of the project – the transition of the retail store to U-Haul – even though it will be some time before the second and third phases are started. Sketches of the second phase south of the entrance, which hasn’t been scheduled, shows several small retail stores.
Saletin reasons U-Haul is an ideal tenant for the site as it is a low traffic generator. He said the Firestone store remains, but that the Rocky Point food and memorabilia business that didn’t open this year will not stay.
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