The Shops at High Street have a new owner with big plans for the shopping center.
On July 31, High Street Shops, LLC purchased the Williamsburg shopping center on Richmond Road for $14,450,000, according to Williamsburg-James City County Court documents.
The 17.34-acre property had been owned by High Street Retail Phase I, LLC since September 2007. The Shops at High Street will now be managed by Lamar Companies, Inc., an affiliate of High Street Shops, LLC.
Founded in 1972, Lamar Companies’s main business has been acquiring shopping centers nationwide and redeveloping them by seeking new tenants and reconfiguring the property as needed, according to its website.
Cory Boss, executive vice president with Lamar Companies, said the company is a “turn-around retail specialist” that typically holds properties for five or six years, often before selling the properties for more than their purchase price.
“This is what we do for a living. We take a lot of pride in it,” Boss said. “We have a long track record of being able to turn around shopping centers.”
Boss said the empty land and retail vacancies “caught our eye,” and Lamar is looking to develop the property’s undeveloped land and bring new tenants to its vacancies.
Boss said the Shops at High Street will be hosting two events this fall to help draw residents and potential customers to the shopping center.
“We try to bring the folks in and hopefully once they’re there it’s a positive experience and they come back,” Boss said, adding coupons for the center’s stores will be given away to guests.
The first will be held Sept. 23, called “A Taste of High Street.” Boss said the event will have a “block party atmosphere,” with live music, raffles, a bounce house for children and a beer garden. The event’s admission is free.
High Street will then host the Chowder and Blues Festival Nov. 3-5, Boss said, in conjunction with CultureFix. The event will combine the blues music of the Big Bluesy Blues Festival, which was held at Jamestown Beach Event Park in 2016, and the food of the ChowderFest.
“That brings in a bunch of vendors that come in with different types of food, and blues music that is showcased throughout the event,” Boss said. “It should be a lot of fun because right now we have areas that are grass, we can set up a stage and people can come out and sit.”
CultureFix’s Steve Rose said he reached an agreement with Lamar Company Tuesday to host the weekend festival. Rose said he thinks the Shops at High Street are a great location for festivals, with its level, open spaces and two-story parking garage.
“We’ve looked every year at that location,” Rose said. “We’re excited that the new company is willing to do events there and promote the area.”
Boss added that Lamar Companies hopes to organize a Christmas event, and events around Valentine’s Day, Easter and July 4 as well, although nothing has been finalized.
In addition to community events, the company also hopes to bring more customers to the shopping center by bringing in new businesses.
While most of the current businesses in the Shops at High Street offer entertainment, including the Movie Tavern, Revolution Golf and Grille and restaurants, Boss said he anticipates more entertainment options will be added to the center.
He added the Shops at High Street have enough undeveloped land to support ten or more new tenants. Two fields adjacent to parking are available for commercial development.
With the city’s approval process for development, Boss said the period between signing a lease with a new tenant and starting construction will last at least a year.