One side of the Ritchie Highway Shopping Center in Brooklyn Park is getting a face lift, and the other side might follow suit if more tenants can be found.
"The northern side is in good shape in terms of tenancy. We've only got one vacancy," said Charles Mason, vice president of Rucker Enterprises Inc. in McLean, Va., which manages the center.
"We're putting a new facade on the north side and we're going to resurface the parking lot and restripe it," said Mr. Mason. "We plan on getting that side cleaned up and looking good."
The old Ritchie Highway Shopping Center sign also has been torn down to make way for a new one, which will resemble the roof of a house. The renovations, which also will include underside canopy lighting, are expected to be completed within 90 days, said Mr. Mason.
"It's definitely due a face lift just to give the community a push," said Matt McDonald, who works at Chesapeake Optical Co. in the shopping center.
Built in 1955, the shopping center was once home to Sears Roebuck & Co., a bakery, a men's clothing store, a women's dress shop and other establishments.
"I used to shop at those places 25 years ago," said state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a Brooklyn Park Democrat. "I was really happy when I saw the construction going on over there. It's been neglected over the years."
Mr. Jimeno said the renovation "shows somebody has confidence in the community."
Five years ago, the south side of the center, vacant now except for a bank and Woolworth's, was fully leased. Once home to Mr. Goodbuys, Remco and the White Coffee Pot, the south side is largely boarded up now.
"We're going to try and aggressively lease that south side of the center and then possibly put a new facade on that side of the building," said Mr. Mason.
He said he expects a "for lease" sign to go up within a week or two.
"We would really like to make it a retail center," he said. "We don't necessarily want to put any professional offices in it."
Talk of sprucing up the center has circulated for a long time. "The landlord has been wanting to do a face lift on the building," said Mr. Mason. 'We've been talking about it for the last four or five years."
Delays were caused by frequently changing plans and problems with financing, said Susan Cooper, president of McLean, Va.-based North Joleh & South Joleh Corp., which owns the center.
"The ability to borrow for commercial developers has been dramatically impacted by the banking industry, the savings and loan. Everything has mushroomed off of that, and it's been difficult for developers to obtain money for development," said Ms. Cooper, who declined to say how much the renovations cost.
"We're trying to improve the shopping center and the looks of it," said Ms. Cooper. "We're hoping the economy is going to cooperate with us now."