MESA, AZ-The redevelopment of a shuttered Mervyn’s into acommunity marketplace that will house 100 merchants, a specialtyrestaurant and a farmers market is nearing completion. Fivemerchants have signed leases at the project, dubbed POOL. Theyinclude: Aspen Renee Studios; Arizona Salsa Company; GreatEmbroidery; Latino Jewelers; and Thee Boutique.

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POOL is modeled after some of the most famous markets in thecountry including Pike Place in Seattle and Oxbow Market in Napa,CA. It is the first of its kind in Arizona, says Brad Weinstock,CEO and co-founder of POOL.

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POOL is a community marketplace that brings together specialtypurveyors, small businesses, artisans and privately-owned merchantswho otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to afford rents intraditional retail venues. At POOL, rents start at $650 per month.“POOL in our case is a verb,” Weinstock says. “The name referencesthe pooling together of people, their strengths, diversities andresources. It’s all about collectivism.”

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Located in the former Mervyn’s on the northeast corner ofStapley Drive and Main Street, POOL’s first phase consists of41,000 square feet. Phase two will include the balance of the100,000-square-foot building, which was built in the 1970s andoriginally housed a W.T. Grant department store.

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Mervyns occupied the space until January 2009 when the chainfiled for bankruptcy, leaving the owner, Los Angeles-based GRL MesaDevelopments LLC with a worthless lease. The owner partnered withWeinstock to discover the best use for the building.

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GRL Mesa Developments and Weinstock brought in a retailconsultant, Skyler Hynes, to study the Mesa community and helpdevelop a concept. “We could have easily re-leased the space toanother big box tenant as the owner already had interest from a99-cent store,” Weinstock notes.

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For more than a year, Hynes immersed himself in Mesa, making ithis second home and hosting neighborhood meetings, conductingcommunity outreach and meeting with city officials and leaders. Theconcept for POOL was developed over many months.

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“Our goal in creating POOL was to build a sense of community inMesa and to give entrepreneurs a platform to bring their productsto market,” says Skyler Hynes, co-founder of POOL.

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For example, Aspen Renee Studios is a floral design company ledby master florist Aspen Weeks. Weeks currently operates from herhome and will relocate her business to POOL this spring. AspenRenee Studios will sell fresh flower arrangements, centerpieces,wedding bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres.

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Weinstock tells GlobeSt. the former Mervyn’s box hadn’t beentouched since the 1970s. As part of the redevelopment, the buildingwas gutted and any semblance of Mervyn’s was removed. The ceilingwas increased to 24 feet and skylights were installed to create amodern, bright environment. “We have already invested $2 million,and we have about $1 million to go,” he says.

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Part of that investment includes the creation of the East MainStreet Caf

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