Four more stores to open in Dowling Village

Four more stores to open in Dowling Village

Planet Fitness, Aspen Dental, Bridgestone/Firestone and Sleepy's all sign on

NORTH SMITHFIELD - The town's largest site for commercial development is growing, and the changes are coming fast.

Four new businesses have signed on to join Dowling Village, and work crews are carving out several new areas on the 137-acre site to make room for the expected tenants.

Planet Fitness, a national gym chain that promotes affordable rates and a low-key fitness environment, is scheduled to set up shop in Retail 8, with a 20,000-square-foot building to be constructed in a still-forested area across from Lowe's Home Improvement. The business is expected to have 100 parking spaces, and will be connected to a second, smaller lease area named "Retail 7."

Aspen Dental, a general and cosmetic dentistry corporation, has signed on for that lot, which has been renamed "Office 2" on the latest site plans for the massive Eddie Dowling Highway development. According to Town Planner Robert Ericson, utilizing some of the planned retail space allowed the developer to delay construction on a proposed building dedicated for office use.

The tire sales and auto service giant Bridgestone/Firestone will make a home in "Retail 12," also located in the yet-to-be developed area across from Lowe's. The shop will open on a 8,473-square-foot lot with 50 parking spaces in the lot closest to the road, on the right-hand side for those entering Dowling Village Boulevard by CVS Pharmacy.

And Sleepy's, a mattress and bedding warehouse with more than 800 locations nationwide, will occupy a 15,000-square-foot building on "Retail 6," a small space located between Lowe's and the boulevard.

Town Administrator Paulette Hamilton said she's pleased with the recent progress on the massive property, a project in the making for nearly a decade.

"Our positive partnership with the developer brings commercial expansion and growth to North Smithfield. We are very happy that Dowling Village continues to bring quality businesses to our area," said Hamilton.

Those keeping a watchful eye on the shrinking business district along Diamond Hill Road in neighboring Woonsocket, however, may not be as pleased with the news. Three of the four businesses planned for Dowling Village currently have locations just six miles away, in either Walnut Hill Plaza or Diamond Hill Plaza, and while none have announced intent to close their Woonsocket stores, recent decisions by other companies point to the trend.

Walmart was the first business to sign on for Dowling Village, making their move to North Smithfield in 2011 and leaving behind a sprawling 82,000-square-foot vacancy. Soon Lowe's followed, leaving empty spots in two of the district's former "anchor" properties. Last month, Shaw's closed its store there as well, leaving more vacant space in a struggling plaza. Sleepy's, Planet Fitness and Aspen Dental are among the few tenants that remain.

Woonsocket Economic Development Director Matthew Wojcik said he has not heard any rumors regarding a potential closure of Sleepy's, Planet Fitness or Aspen Dental. The Planet Fitness store, he pointed out, is a franchise and is fairly new.

"My understanding has been that they're doing pretty well there, and that they're not afraid to saturate the market," said Wojcik. The possibility that the company is simply opening another store, he said, holds true for Sleepy's and Aspen Dental as well.

Representatives from all three companies failed to return a call for comment prior to The Breeze's print deadline.

Regardless of the company's status in Woonsocket, one thing is clear: Dowling Village is on the rise. Ericson said he's heard rumors that two additional retail chains are in the process of joining the development, but have not signed papers as of yet.

The four new additions will join five retailers already operating in Dowling Village, including three stores that opened in 2013: Denny's Restaurant, Lowe's and Aldi.

Progress has been slower, however, for Kohl's, a department store specializing in clothes and home accessories. The company took out a building permit more than a year ago, but construction on the large lot, situated just beside Lowe's, has been nearly nonexistent.

"What I've heard most recently is that Kohl's will not get started until early this fall, although I think it may be even later," Ericson said.

The development still has space to accommodate a slew of additional merchants.

"One, two, three and 11 have not had any tenant action yet," Ericson said of the already paved retail lots planned closest to the CVS entrance, beside Kohls.

Dowling Village is slated to include 12 retail stores and three stand-alone restaurants, plus a three-story office building, by the time it's complete.