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Furniture chain plans to join area
A long-vacant building could be Ashley Furniture's new home.
By JODIE TILLMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published August 14, 2007
PORT RICHEY - A national furniture chain plans to renovate and move into the empty Service Merchandise store on U.S. 19.
Ashley Furniture has filed initial plans to move into the 54,000-square-foot building that has been vacant since Service Merchandise went out of business in 2002.
Ashley Furniture Industries in Wisconsin, one of the nation's largest furniture manufacturers, makes and imports upholstered furniture and leather and hardwood pieces.
It licenses its name to nearly 300 independently owned Ashley Furniture HomeStores that sell only its brands.
Usually regarded as less expensive than, for example, Ethan Allen, Ashley says it keeps its products affordable because there are no middleman costs.
So far, the initial application filed with Pasco County has gone nowhere because it is missing information. Al Gomez of Orlando-based Interplan, which is handling the construction, said he will be providing the additional materials to the county so that the project can proceed to the Development Review Committee.
Interplan has been planning the project for about two months, he said.
The renovations would be interior only, he said, and the company wants to restripe the parking lot and add landscaping.
Though he believes the renovations would work, Gomez said he's still awaiting a final report from structural engineers about the viability of renovating the building vs. constructing a store from the ground up.
Because it is a proposed rehabilitation of an existing building, Ashley Furniture would owe much less in transportation impact fees than if it were building new, county officials say.
Pasco administrators are requesting a traffic study for the project but Gomez said his firm is hoping do a more informal study. He said he believes the traffic at Ashley would be comparable to that at Service Merchandise.
The Service Merchandise property is assessed by the county at $2.03-million.
The property owner is listed as Boston-based Jasmine Lakes Development Corp. Selling the property is contingent on county approval of the project, Gomez said.
Ashley, the No. 2 chain in furniture sales, opened a store in Wesley Chapel earlier this year. A company spokeswoman did not return a phone call Monday.