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CONROE, TX-The Conroe Outlet Center, a 281,436-sf suburban property north of Houston, is under new management, action coming within two months of Prime Retail LP of Baltimore returning the asset to lender New York Life.

Steven A. Sless, a Prime Retail spokesman, tells GlobeSt.com that the REIT’s voluntary give-back was done to “strengthen the financial condition” of the overall operation. Prime Retail continued to manage the outlet for a short time and then decided Aug. 1 to retreat entirely. Sless says Prime Retail owns about 40 outlets and the Conroe disposition was needed. Prime Retail bought the property 10 years ago.

New York Life has now hired CB Richard Ellis’ Chicago-based retail services group and value retail consultants, Devine, Lerner, Serwer, to lease and manage the center at the intersection of Interstate 45 North and League Line Road. The idea is to use CB Richard Ellis’ national prominence and strength in tandem with the value retail relationships of longtime industry veterans Devine, Lerner, Serwer.

Todd Caruso, CBRE’s managing director for the retail services group, says he’s worked with the consultants for many years. The team will put together a merchandising plan aimed at re-tenanting and in some cases, relocating existing tenants. The roster includes such mainstays as Liz Claiborne, Nike, Mikasa, Levi’s, Guess?, Osh Kosh B’Gosh and Bass Outlet. Those names, sure draws for others to come on board, have said they’re going to stay around to see what the new owner and managers have in store. Serwer says he is working on strengthening the relationships with existing tenants as he goes in search of new ones to fill the empty slots, now accounting for 15% to 18% of the center.

The end goal, Caruso tells GlobeSt.com, is to put the Conroe outlet back on the map. He feels the strong location and rejuvenation will do just that.

Serwer agrees that the Conroe Outlet Center is a re-growth opportunity. At one time, the outlet mall brought in sales of $300 per sf, clear evidence of its ability to perform. Serwer believes the hidden opportunities will come from value retailers interested in opening new locations without becoming involved in a new outlet development.

Still, they both agree outlet mall product has been going through tough times. Sless says about 20% of the nation’s outlet space has disappeared since 1995.

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