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Dickinson Development creates new space at Merrimac Plaza – now ‘110% Leased’

METHUEN, MA. (March 23, 2012) — When Choice Fitness owners Sheila and Dennis Metayer learned that the TJX Companies was closing its AJ Wright chain of stores, they asked their broker, Mike Chapin of the Madden Group, to research locations in the Methuen area that would be suitable for their fourth fitness center.

Chapin suggested the Metayers consider 16,000sf of empty warehouse space, vacant for close to a decade, behind the closed AJ Wright in the rear of the Merrimac Plaza on Rte 110 (180 Haverhill Street). They Metayers, who operate s second Methuen location and additional sites in Haverhill and North Andover, were interested, but only if there were front parking lot access and signage. Visibility is a tall order when discussing hidden warehouse space.

Mark Dickinson, president of Dickinson Development and partner with the plaza’s landlord, Merrimac Income Partners, LP, acquired the shopping center in 1981 when it consisted of just 95,000sf, including a 69,000sf Almy’s Department Store. In 1984, Dickinson expanded the plaza to 175,000sf to include the new 50,000sf Market Basket and other retail tenants.

Once TJX found a buyer for the AJ Wright lease — the Conway Stores new chain C.W. Price, which occupies about 25,000sf — Dickinson negotiated with Conway to give back a slice of the retail space — enough to create a corridor that leads gym members directly from the front lot to the fitness center behind the retail stores. The corridor that Dickinson built – 8ft. wide and 100ft long, leads directly to Choice’s center.

Among other enticements Dickinson used to seal the deal with Choice; the owner invested approximately $75,000 in electrical upgrades and a new sewer line to accommodate the new expanded usage. They also made roof for a large sign over the stores corridor entrance.

Despite the economic downturn of recent years, Dickinson’s team has managed to maintain Merrimac Plaza’s “No Vacancy” status.

“By finding a great user for space that had been vacant for so long — with all the additional business the fitness center is bringing to the plaza — it actually feels like we have attained 110% occupancy,” Mark Dickinson said.

Founded in 1980, Dickinson Development is a full-service commercial real estate development and project management consulting firm based in Quincy, Mass.

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