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Dunham’s Sports on move

To open Whitley store in wake of Fort Wayne plans

Dunham’s Sports is at it again.

The Waterford, Mich.-based company will open a store at a former Scott’s Food & Pharmacy in Columbia City. This comes a week after officials announced Dunham’s intention to open a store in Glenbrook Commons plaza in Fort Wayne.

Dunham’s sells athletic equipment, apparel and footwear.

Dunham’s Columbia City venture is part of a $4.5 million project to redevelop the 50,000-square-foot site at 496 W. Plaza Drive. Developer Jeff Kerr anticipates the sporting goods store will open before summer. In the meantime, Kerr is seeking other tenants for the location.

“We will leave no stone unturned,” said Kerr, president of Kerr Real Estate in Saugatuck, Mich. “In today’s world you have to be creative, so we’re pretty flexible in our thinking.”

While Dunham’s will occupy the majority of the former Scott’s store, Kerr said other retailers, restaurants or mixed-use offices are possibilities. The property also has about 5 acres that are undeveloped. Up to 60 jobs could be created by all the tenants.

“The best-case scenario would have (the remaining retail space) filled by next year,” Kerr said.

The project will receive a 10-year tax abatement that will save Kerr Real Estate $175,000, said Alan Tio, president of the Whitley County Economic Development Corp. The Columbia City Council approved the tax break Tuesday.

“The abatement is actually on $1.5 million of the project and will be phased in,” Tio said, adding that Kerr won’t pay taxes on the development in the first year. “It’s a way of allowing them not to have to pay upfront and helps gets the project off the ground.”

Tio described nearby U.S. 30 as “an important corridor” for Columbia City.

Kerr is no stranger to northeast Indiana. He has other properties in the region, including a pair of plazas in Auburn. One of the retail centers also has a Dunham’s Sports outlet.

“They are one of the best-run sporting goods operations in the country,” he said.

Kerr said the company is “fiercely private.” Dunham’s officials did not return calls seeking comment. Kerr said Dunham’s prefers not to make statements to the media until after a store is up and running.

Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., parent of Scott’s, closed the store in Columbia City in 2007, soon after buying the 18-store chain from SuperValu for an disclosed sum.

Mayor Ryan Daniel said local boosters have been wanting the space filled with a viable business and feel they have that now.

“We think Dunham’s will be a great addition to our community.”