SPRING HILL — Tenants at Sterling Square, a block west of the busy Four Corners intersection, are adrift.
Do they have a home for a time or not? That nobody's telling them is hardly courteous or appropriate for a landlord, they say.
"An engineering survey crew was here for three days," said Bill Charmock, pointing beyond the window of Bill's Barber Shop, a fixture of the square for 35 years, on Spring Hill Drive a half-block west of Mariner Boulevard. "Look at all the little red flags. And there's paint marks on the pavement. I don't need somebody to hit me over the head to know something's going to be built."
"He's not renewing anyone's lease," added Andrea Pascucci, owner of the Barking Lot, a dog grooming studio at the square for at least 15 years.
The property owner of record, Elwood Inc. of Nobleton, Ontario, has not informed the two of any forthcoming changes. Also receiving no word are the other tenants, Tobacco House and MetroPCS.
Not that any of the business owners have ever had any interaction with the owner. Rather, the Spring Hill office of Century 21/Alliance Realty has served as property manager and collected rents.
Repeated calls to Elwood president Phillip Croft and Century 21 property manager Jose Torres for comment were not returned.
Pascucci offered that, when questioned, Torres had apologized to her for the lack of any information on the plaza's future.
Meanwhile, officials of the Hernando County Building Department are reviewing plans submitted April 19 for a rebuild of the McDonald's restaurant adjacent to the square. Plans show a new 4,490-square-foot restaurant in the middle of the two properties. Elwood and McDonald's of Hawaii Development Co. are shown as owners of each portion they occupy. A building permit has not yet been issued.
Joe Chabus, Florida regional director of communications for McDonald's, would say only that the current McDonald's structure is to be razed and a new restaurant built on the site by the end of this year. Unofficially, a McDonald's employee said demolition is scheduled for June.
Pascucci said her lease provides for the tenant or owner to cancel with a 30-day notice, which she has not received or ordered herself.
"I'm amazed how many people come in and ask where we're moving," she said. "The word seems to be out."
Responding to rumors, Pascucci went looking for a new location.
"I found a place in Kass Circle. But it won't be ready till June. It's not going to be easy. There's a lot of equipment."
She gestured to four work stations, all busy on a recent weekday afternoon.
Charmock is even more upset. Pacing the sidewalk outside his barbershop, he said, "I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in that place. I get choked up about it."
He told of his own work on his unit to accommodate three barbering stations and a comfortable waiting area, of replacing the flooring five times at his own expense, two due to water inundations from sources beyond his unit.
"That cost a bundle," he said. "I'd like to have money to reimburse that, but it's not going to happen."
He signed a lease and erected a barber pole a couple weeks ago on a site at Gramercy Park plaza, on Linden Drive.
"We've all looked forward to work," Charmock said of his four employees. "We're not looking forward to moving."
The shop moved overnight Saturday.
"Customers have always helped me out," Charmock said, "even to move to the new place."
At Tobacco House, owner Carmen Daniels said, "Nobody's notified us yet" of a lease cancellation or need to move. "We are looking at different places."
Does she think tenants have been treated shabbily?
"Absolutely," Daniels declared. "Everybody's saying the same thing."
Management of MetroPCS, the remaining tenant, did not return calls for comment.
Over at McDonald's, a manager's eyes bulged after overhearing that demolition is planned for June. It was news to her.
Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]