Tue | Jan 23, 2018

Empire shopping complex sold to Eppley

Published:Wednesday | December 14, 2016 | 12:00 AMTameka Gordon
Nicholas Scott, managing director of Eppley Limited.

Investment company Eppley Limited has bought the Empire Shopping Centre in Cross Roads, Kingston, which houses the last remaining supermarket under the Empire marquee.

An adjoining parking lot has also been taken over by the new owners.

The property, which sits at the corner of Half-Way Tree Road and Retirement Road, was acquired through an entity registered as One Retirement Road Limited - a name that plays on the lot number of the holdings. The transaction price was not disclosed.

The Cross Roads supermarket was the flagship store of the Empire grocery chain built by Lloyd Kerr, starting in 1982.

The entire shopping complex consists of approximately 35,000 square feet of retail space with the adjoining lot spanning 27,000 square feet.

It's "the largest remaining vacant lot of land in the Cross Roads with frontage directly located on Half-Way Tree Road", director of One Retirement Road and managing director of Eppley, Nicholas Scott, told Gleaner Business via email.

Scott said Eppley and its partners have acquired the assets but did not otherwise name the partners. Eppley is a listed company and a member of the Musson Jamaica group, which is itself a private conglomerate in manufacturing and distribution, among other business lines.

The supermarket shelves were nearly empty when Gleaner Business visited last week. Several calls to Kerr for comment were not returned.

The shopping centre was acquired in September, and Kerr now holds a lease for the supermarket.

Pressed on how the grocery business supermarket would shape up under the new arrangement, Scott would only say Kerr is now operating the supermarket as a tenant.




Other changes observed at the complex included beefed up security in the parking lot, with motorists now issued tickets to park; and construction activity, including space to house an ABM.

"We intend to generally upgrade the plaza, including enhancing its appearance and adding amenities," said Scott. "We will undertake further initiatives early in the new year."

Kerr has been selling off the Empire assets for the past two to three years. The Empire Liguanea store was sold in late 2014, while the 27,000 square feet Portmore Pines store is still listed for sale by Coldwell Banker Jamaica for $350 million.

Last year, Kerr attempted to sell the space at Portmore Pines as separate shops after failing to offload the asset as a going concern in 2014. The store was offered for sale four years after Empire first entered the area, with Kerr having acquired the operation from Super Plus Food Stores in mid-2010.

The store was placed on the market at a time when large rivals Hi-Lo and the Progressive chain opened up supermarkets in proximity to Empire.

The Portmore Pines store was the second deal with Super Plus for Kerr, following the acquisition of the assets and equipment of the Super Plus branch in Liguanea in 2009. That location was taken over by Hi-Lo in January of this year.