Kohl’s schedules Oct. 1 opening in North Smithfield

Kohl’s schedules Oct. 1 opening in North Smithfield

Work began this week on the Dowling Village lot where Kohl's department store will open this fall. (Breeze Photo by Tom Ward)
Construction begins at Dowling Village department store, one lot remains

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Since 2012, plans have been in the works to create a Kohl’s department store at Dowling Village in North Smithfield, and the wait is finally over – or at least there’s an end in sight.

Construction on the lot, situated just beside Lowe’s Home Improvement inside the Eddie Dowling Highway development, began this week, and according to Brian Bucci, developer of the commercial center, the project is on track for an Oct. 1 completion.

The 35,000-square-foot store will utilize Kohl’s latest prototype, which “blends the retail and online shopping experience,” according to Bucci. The department store specializes in clothes and home accessories, including bedding and furniture, and also carries appliances, toys, jewelry, makeup and more.

“They put that building on hold because they were changing the format to better compete with the internet, and the changing patterns of retail shoppers,” Bucci explained. “We were disappointed that they didn’t build the store at the beginning, but we’re happy that the store they’re building now is the store of the future.”

In Rhode Island, Kohl’s currently has locations in Smithfield, Warwick and North Kingstown.

Bucci said original plans called for a 55,000-square-foot location at Dowling, but the final concept is more of an “omni channel store” – a newer style of retail that aims to compliment the physical businesses with online sales. The retailer has been promoting features like its mobile app and accompanying in-store wallet, and pushing shoppers to “buy online, pick up in store,” as a way to drive traffic into its brick and mortar buildings.

The retailer’s launch marks the near completion of the massive 122-acre site, first conceived in 2004. Kohl’s construction leaves just one open parcel remaining, and Bucci said he expects to make an announcement regarding that space in two to three months.

“We anticipate Dowling Village to be 100 percent complete by the end of this summer,” Bucci said.

It has not always been clear if Bucci would find success in the small town with his large-scale commercial plan. The project faced heavy opposition when it first came to light nearly 15 years ago, with environmental and small business advocates forming the Valley Alliance for Smart Growth in hopes to halt the influx of big box stores like Walmart.

But Bucci eventually reached an agreement with his critics, in part by increasing environmental standards for construction at the site, and slightly reducing the scope of his vision. And slowly, retailers began to spring up, starting with CVS in 2009, and moving on to include Denny’s, Firestone Tire, Petsmart, Aldi’s and more.

The last two businesses to join the plaza – Buffalo Wild Wings and Texas Roadhouse – opened in 2015, and found an immediate audience with consumers hungry for some new dining options, according to Bucci.

“The overall success at Dowling Village has been outstanding. The stores that are open have all reported better than projected sales,” he said.

Recently, Bucci has begun to strategically sell off properties within the commercial center. In 2016, the 12,000 square-foot building that holds tenants Sleepy’s, GNC, Supercuts and Verizon sold for $4.7 million. The lots holding the Texas Roadhouse and BWW were recently put on the market for $2.2 million each, a potential transaction that would not affect the popular restaurants, according to Bucci.

As workers poured the foundation for his latest tenant this week, Bucci said the final verdict on the multi-million dollar project is in.

“Dowling Village has been a resounding success.”