New Target Store Likely Planned for Tupelo, Miss.

Apr. 20--TUPELO -- Attention, shoppers: Your wish may come true sooner than you think.

A rezoning request by a Georgia investment group may be the prelude to a Target store in Tupelo.

The Daily Journal has learned that Abernathy & Timberlake Investment Group LLC of Duluth, Ga., has applied for the rezoning of a 14-acre parcel of land off North Gloster Street west of the Barnes Crossing commercial district.

A visit to City Hall and a request to look at public records provided plenty of information, including the fact that the name "Target" is attached to one of the records.

The company is asking to rezone the space from A-O, or Agriculture/Open Space, to C-2, or General Commercial. The land is inside city limits and inside the lucrative Barnes Crossing Overlay District, which includes a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Sam's Club, The Mall at Barnes Crossing, The Shoppes at Barnes Crossing and several other retailers and restaurants.

The strip of land, which includes parts of three parcels, can't be seen from the street. It lies north of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club and is bordered on the north by the proposed extension of the Major Thoroughfare Project that would link Barnes Crossing Road with Coley Road.

To consider the rezoning request, the Tupelo Planning Committee has scheduled a May 1 public hearing in the Council Chamber of City Hall.

Letters have been sent to owners of property within 500 feet of the affected land, inviting them to attend the meeting and express any opinions they might have.

The application is available for inspection at City Hall.

So how does Target come into the picture?

City officials were mum, saying they have been asked not to say anything about the project. A call to Tom Abernathy, president of the development company, was not returned.

Shoppers, however, have been clamoring for the chic-cheap retailer for years, and local developers have been pursuing the Minneapolis-based Target Corp. even longer. One of them, when asked who might be bringing the retailer to Tupelo, said that Abernathy was working on the project.

Target Corp., like many others, is chasing retail leader Wal-Mart. On paper, there's not much comparison. Last year, Wal-Mart's sales topped $312 billion; Target's was a little more than a sixth of that at just under $53 billion.

But analysts and shoppers can't stop talking about Target, which has brought in international designers to help push its "upscale discounter" image. The results speak for themselves: Sales increases hit double digits in nine of the past 12 months.

The company that could be bringing the store to Tupelo, Abernathy & Timberlake, isn't a novice at these kinds of projects.

The company is involved with several large-scale commercial real estate developments throughout the U.S., specializing in shopping "power centers" that include big-box retailers like Target, Old Navy, Bed Bath and Beyond, Wal-Mart and others.

<<Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo, MS) (KRT) -- 04/24/06>>