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A Fort Worth woman has gone online in an effort to persuade Barnes & Noble Inc. not to shutter its University Park Village store. The move follows the bookseller’s recently announced plans to pull out of that location as well as its downtown space in Sundance Square. “I think it would just be a huge loss,” said Debra Million, whose Berkeley Place home is just east of the University Park Village store. For years, Million, her daughters and countless others have bought books, attended author signings and participated in high school holiday wrapping fundraisers at what’s become a neighborhood fixture.
“The one at University is still a vital store and it’s kind of a community gathering center,” said Million, who had been elated when the retailer reconsidered plans to vacate the space in 2010. Barnes & Noble had reached an impasse with the former owner of University Park Village during lease negotiations in 2010 and said it would close the store, prompting Million to mobilize neighbors to ask the bookseller to reconsider. The lease was eventually renewed in late 2010. Million hopes her latest effort yields similar results.
Rather than circulate a petition, Million is encouraging friends, neighbors and others to contact the landlord, Glimcher Realty Trust of Columbus, Ohio, in an effort to change its plans. Such efforts are not unprecedented. For example, supporters of a Barnes & Noble store in Encino, Calif., lobbied city officials and created a Facebook page in 2010 in an effort to save the store after CVS Pharmacy submitted an application to fill the space. The pharmacy eventually opened a store at the Ventura Boulevard location. A representative of Glimcher Realty Trust, which owns University Park Village, said its ears are open. “We always appreciate the feedback from our shoppers and use that information to drive our leasing and marketing efforts,” said Jessi Fausett, marketing director for Glimcher. Fausett acknowledged receiving phone calls and emails from Fort Worth patrons and said the company wants to serve the community.
“The community is definitely a focus to us,” Fausett said. “But we must look at the overall market and what we can do for the Fort Worth area.” The city’s retail market remains strong, according to a Barnes & Noble representative who did not dismiss the idea of reopening at a different location. “I would certainly expect that, over time, we’ll find a way to come back and find another home there” in Fort Worth, said David Deason, Barnes & Noble’s vice president of development. “We’d love to stay,” Deason said of retaining the University Park Village store. “We’ve done everything we can on our end to make that happen, but the objective of the current owner is to divide that space up and have higher rents from multiple tenants.” Exactly what tenants will fill the space and whether any leasing decisions have been made has not been made public. The bookseller’s University Park lease expires at the end of January, but it must vacate the premises a month earlier to allow the landlord to prepare the space.
Deason called the store “perfect for us” since it enjoys loyal customers and is located near several affluent neighborhoods. In contrast, the Sundance Square store trailed its University Drive counterpart in terms of sales, not to mention occupying a downtown location that typically does not draw high retail traffic. “When you look across America, there are not that many CBD [central business district] environments that really work” for retail, Deason said. “Downtown Fort Worth is a fine, fine entertainment area but … all stores need a significant amount of customers to be successful.” The University Drive store opened in 1995, becoming an anchor for the upscale shopping center, which also houses Apple, Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Blue Mesa Grill and other tenants.