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Furniture store to fill void at Valley River Center.

Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard

Valley River Center has found a local furniture retailer to fill most of the former Montgomery Ward store, at least until the mall attracts long-term tenants that would prompt a renovation of the big building.

Rife's Home Furniture will open in the former Ward's spot, perhaps the day after Christmas, owner Kevin Rife said Monday.

Rife will move his present furniture outlet on Goodpasture Island Road in Eugene to the mall. Rife had to find a new home for his store because the building he leases was bought by a development arm of Kendall Automotive Group. Kendall plans to convert the building into an auto mall for three dealerships next year.

Rife doesn't expect to be in the former Ward's for long. His lease there lasts just one year, starting Jan. 1. Any time during the year, the landlord can end Rife's tenancy with 30 days' notice, said David Olson, a senior vice president with mall owner Grosvenor, a London-based property investment firm.

The vacant Ward's space had been tied up in the Montgomery Ward & Co. bankruptcy for more than two years. The land under the building has long been owned by Grosvenor, but until a bankruptcy judge in late spring transferred the building ownership to Grosvenor, it could not actively seek new tenants.

Rife's will occupy about 60,000 square feet at Valley River Center, and about 35,000 to 40,000 square feet of that will be showroom.

Grosvenor and the mall's management firm, General Growth Properties, hope to work a deal that will ultimately involve renovating the 98,234-square-foot former Ward's space.

Mall managers have thought about filling the building - which sits at the back of the mall near the Willamette River - with entertainment venues, such as movie theaters, or with restaurants, because they would bring people to the mall for reasons other than shopping.

Olson on Monday confirmed that one proposal would move the Cinema World 8 theater, another Valley River complex tenant, from its building near Delta Highway to the former Ward's space. But he said that deal isn't certain.

Other potential tenants are retail-oriented, Olson said.

"Hopefully, we can announce something by early next year," he said.

Rife's new outlet will be larger than the Goodpasture Island Road store and Rife's Leather & More, which Rife opened last July in Springfield. Both of those are 20,000 square feet. Rife's Home Furniture in Sutherlin is 12,000 square feet.

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Kevin Rife says Rife's Home Furniture will open in the vacant Montgomery Ward space at Valley River Center.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 2, 2003
Words:429
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