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Montgomery Ward has started moving its inventory from a tornado-ravaged Ft. Worth headquarters and distribution site into a 350,086-sf warehouse in Corsicana, about 50 miles south of Dallas.

The new facility will be fully operational in five to six months, J. Holmes Davis IV, senior vice president of Binswanger, the leasing agent, told GlobeSt.com. Construction on an expansion to double the space tentatively is set to begin in two to three months, he says.

Montgomery Ward had occupied nearly 1 million sf in Ft. Worth until a March 28 tornado ripped off its roof and caused other serious damage to its west end location. Montgomery Ward is joining other major retailers, including Kmart and Russell Stouffer, who have opted to abandon the metroplex for Corsicana. The town is bisected by Interstate 45, leading to Houston, while the Montgomery Ward 73-acre site is situated close to a rail line.

The distribution center will service Montgomery Ward’s southwest operation. The company is one of the nation’s largest privately owned retailers, employing 49,000 people at about 250 stores in more than 30 states.

The Chicago-based retailer’s move will create about 160 new jobs initially, with more to follow when the expansion is complete, predicts John Bennett, Corsicana’s economic development director. The town has approved city, county and college district tax abatements for the expansion.

The 73-acre property is owned by Kimco Realty Corp., a REIT based in Hyde Park, NY. It acquired the site in a sale-leaseback agreement with Venture Stores Inc., which went bankrupt two years ago. Kimco’s sole leasing agent, the Philadelphia-headquartered Binswanger, has been seeking a tenant suited to the site since then.

“This is not your 100,000-sf facility in the middle of Dallas-Ft. Worth,” says Davis. “But it’s a good small town” with available labor and good labor rates as well as an interstate artery and rail possibilities.

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