Frank Liu couldn’t be happier with what’s happening to the exterior of the Southside Shopping Center, 2914 E. 32nd St.

Liu, part of the family that owns Ichiban Japanese Restaurant, also known as Ichiban Sushi, has occupied Suite 109 in the center for 18 years. The restaurant is probably the center’s longest-running tenant.

“Most of our customers are telling us it looks much better than before,” Liu said. “They think it’s definitely much better and much brighter. I think it’s refreshment.”

A dark metal roof that extended over the sidewalk in front of the shopping center has been covered with a new and much brighter and taller facade that is accented with lighting.

For Liu, the remodeling of his storefront at this time has been like a “thank you” for hanging in there.

“We were struggling during the pandemic. But we have survived, and now things are getting better,” Liu said. “This will help us and maybe attract some new tenants.”

Liu said he was told three years ago that the shopping center might be remodeled.

The pandemic, and other factors, caused the owners of the shopping center to readjust their thinking about the future of the property.

“The original plan was to tear down the shopping center and build hotels in the space,” said Neel Jain, an associate with Jain Hotels, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, owner of the property. “COVID-19 caused us to pause and make an adjustment in our plans.”

Jain said the shopping center sits on “the best commercial corridor in town, and it’s only going to get better.”

Other shopping centers along the corridor, including Fountain Plaza, have invested in remodeling projects to retain and attract new tenants.

Jain said the company is aware of Joplin’s newest economic development project — 32nd Street Place — and the impact it will have on the corridor. The $188 million project will bring a Menard’s, among other things, to Joplin.

The main part of the shopping center that faces East 32nd Street is being remodeled with the new facade.

A strip of shops east of the main area will be remodeled in the weeks ahead. Leasing of storefronts will be handled by Darin Strait. He can be reached at 417-291-8281.

A small strip of shops at the southeast corner of the property might be sold for a single-use store.

“But I think we will hold on to it for a while,” Jain said.

A complex of storefronts on the south side of the shopping center was torn down years ago.

“A new 100-room Marriott SpringHill Suites is planned for the site. It will be the newest property in Joplin,” Jain said. “We look forward to working with the city on this project.”

Jain Hotels LLC is a privately owned real estate investment, management and development company. Established in 2000 with one franchised motel in Tulsa, Jain Hotels, along with its affiliates, currently owns more than $250 million in assets.

Shoe store update

Wow. What a difference a little paint can make. The new Bartlett’s Shoe store that is coming to 303 S. Main St. has been under construction for a while. The exterior of the brick building recently was given a fresh coat of dark green paint. It has changed the look of the property.

“We are super happy with it,” said Erik Bartlett, owner of the new store. “We went back and forth over the color before choosing that one.”

Bartlett, owner of Runaround Running & Fitness, 422 S. Main St., said he has walked past the property at 303 S. Main, a former architectural office, for years before it was brought to his attention by a relative.

“Once I got inside, I realized it was a great building for a retail space,” he said.

He said he hopes for a mid-June opening, but that will depend on the timely arrival of interior fixtures for the store.

Inquiries

A couple of readers have inquired about the removal of a house and the clearing of a large tract of land north of Joplin Pool and Spa, 3040 N. Range Line Road.

A spokesman with Joplin’s building department said no application for a construction permit has been filed with the city in connection with the clearing of the land.

IF YOU HAVE NEWS about something that’s happening on Range Line Road or Main Street, call 417-623-3480, ext. 7250, or send an email to wkennedy@joplinglobe.com.

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