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Auto sales to replace Kmart.

Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard

Eugene's recently shuttered Kmart will be converted to an auto mall for Kendall Automotive Group, which plans to move three crowded dealerships to the property on Goodpasture Island Road.

The firm's Honda and Acura dealers near Coburg and Country Club roads, and Romania Chevrolet on Franklin Boulevard will move to the north Eugene site, perhaps by next summer, Kendall Automotive Group President Paul Skillern said.

Kendall Development LLC, an affiliate of the Automotive Group, on Tuesday bought the 116,740-square-foot retail building on 12 acres from US Realty 86 Associates of Short Hills, N.J. A purchase price was not disclosed.

Financially struggling Kmart leased about 80,000 square feet in the building from US Realty. The discount chain closed its Eugene store last month.

The sprawling retail structure surrounded by acres of asphalt parking lots is ideal for an auto mall to sell Chevrolets, Hondas and Acuras, Skillern said.

"It's a great location and, equally as important, all three of those (car) brands have been represented in dated and cramped facilities," he said. "This will give us an opportunity to grow our business in those three brands."

Kendall will submit building plans to the city within the next three months, he said.

The auto mall is the second major deal for Kendall Automotive Group in two years. In 2001, it merged with Romania Enterprises, adding Romania's Chevrolet, Subaru and Toyota dealerships to Kendall's stable.

After Kendall moves its Honda and Acura dealerships to the yet-to-be-named auto mall, the Subaru dealership on Seventh Avenue in Eugene and a Hyundai dealership (now in Springfield, but soon to be moved to Cottage Grove) will be moved to Kendall's leased lots at Coburg and Country Club roads.

It's unclear what will happen to the vacated Romania Chevrolet dealership at Franklin Boulevard and Orchard Street, which began as Lew Williams Chevrolet in 1957.

Kendall leases the property from the Romania family. The lease expires next August, but Kendall has an option to renew.

"We are in the process of evaluating other developments for that site," Skillern said. It could be used for another car dealership, he said.

New, larger quarters on Goodpasture Island Road, across from the Valley River Village residential/commercial complex, should boost car sales and generate more parts and service business for Kendall, Skillern said. Sharing departments under one roof will make the dealerships more efficient, he said. About 160 employees will work in the auto mall.

The move needs the approval of various car manufacturers, but Skillern doesn't expect that to be a problem.

The purchase and renovation will displace Rife's Home Furniture, which occupies 20,000 square feet in the former Kmart building. An espresso stand in the parking lot also will have to move.

Rife's owner Kevin Rife said he probably will accept Kendall's offer to extend his lease another another six months.

Rife said he will continue seeking a new local spot. His search began in January, when bankrupt Kmart said it would close the Eugene store. Rife has been there for four years.
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Title Annotation:Kendall Automotive Group will relocate 3 dealerships; Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 7, 2003
Words:512
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