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INDEPENDENCE, MO—A lot of people in commercial real estate havelamented the decline of brick-and-mortar retail. Others,however, see underutilized malls and empty storefronts asopportunities. And tearing down these properties often makes lesssense than finding new uses appropriate for an era when consumersshop so much online.

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Pacific Retail Capital Partners, for example,recently decided to step in as the operator of Independence Center,an iconic lifestyle shopping center in Independence, MO, justoutside of Kansas City. Boasting more than one million square feetof retail space and 12 million annual visitors, Independence Centerhas been one of the region's largest shopping centers since openingin 1974, but in recent years it struggled. Last year, SimonProperty Group, its previous owner, defaulted on $200 million loan.

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The El Segundo, CA-based Pacific Retail has purchased and thenlaunched efforts to revive similar centers in other metroareas.

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“We definitely do not have a one-size-fits-all program,”Najla Kayyem, senior vice president of marketing,tells GlobeSt.com. Instead, company officials examine how shoppersand nearby residents use a particular center and in what role itcould play in a given community. And they are not put off orworried about the overall decline of brick-and-mortar retail.

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“A lot of these projects are at Main and Main streets,” shesays, “and great locations don't go out of style.” The companyplans to reinvigorate the property by improving its retail andrestaurant mix, hiring additional full-time staff, and enhancingthe specialty leasing program. Perhaps just as important, it willalso create a robust event calendar with community partners. Thatway, the center will be seen as something more than just a place toshop.

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“We want people in the area to be proud of their center,” Kayyemsays. She echoes the thoughts of many people currently developingor renovating retail centers in that these spaces need to provide experiences “that really create acommunity environment.” But in contrast to some owners, PacificRetail has the time to fully evaluate a site's potential.

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“Unlike the REITs,” many of which are heavily involved in suchretail, “we're not under pressure” to constantly produce quarterlygains. “We have the ability to hone in on what's right for thelong-term.”

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Dillard's, Macy's,Sears and Dicks SportingGoods anchor Independence Center, which also featuresan H&M clothing store that was added lastyear, plus another 120 stores.

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In late 2017, Pacific Retail officials said they would soonbegin a multimillion dollar renovation of Northpark, a 958,000square foot mall in Ridgeland, MS. GenslerArchitects, based in Los Angeles, leads architectural anddesign efforts with Unified Construction servingas the general contractor. The renovations will include: newentrances, dining area, children's play area, restrooms, interiorand exterior landscaping, furniture, fixtures, lighting and commonareas.

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“Investing in Northpark and this strong community benefitseveryone,” Gary Karl, chief operating officer ofPacific Retail Capital Partners. “The renovations and addedamenities will provide an improved experience, for both ourretailers and community. The fresh dining venues, children'sinteractive play experience and family lounge create a stylish andwarm, family-friendly gathering hub for Ridgeland.”

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Brian J. Rogal

Brian J. Rogal is a Chicago-based freelance writer with years of experience as an investigative reporter and editor, most notably at The Chicago Reporter, where he concentrated on housing issues. He also has written extensively on alternative energy and the payments card industry for national trade publications.