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SKOKIE, IL-Westfield America will have a 105,000-sf hole to fill at Westfield Old Orchard since the Saks Fifth Avenue and Off 5th stores are closing at the end of July. Parent company Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises will continue to operate Saks Fifth Avenue stores on Michigan Avenue and north suburban Highland Park, as well as Off 5th locations at Gurnee Mills and Woodfield Village.

“We’re looking at it as an opportunity to bring in exciting new retailers,” Westfield Old Orchard marketing director Shannon Ridgeway tells GlobeSt.com. “We’re sad to see them go. They’ve been a great part of the center.”

Ridgeway adds Westfield America are looking at “a number of options” for the soon to be vacant space, including dividing the department store. Saks Fifth Avenue is one of five department stores at the 1.8-million-sf mall located at Golf Road and Skokie Boulevard, along with Bloomingdale’s, Marshall Field’s, Nordstrom and Lord & Taylor.

Although Ridgeway declined to reveal current occupancy rates, it historically has been in the range of 95% at the mall, which will mark 50 years in 2006. Redeveloped in 1995, Westfield America’s most recent financial report shows sales at Old Orchard at $501 per sf last year, an increase of 10.6% over 2003. Meanwhile, Sak’s paid a base rent of $9.94 per sf on two leases in the portfolio, totaling 144,000 sf.

“This announcement is consistent with our strategy of focusing our energy and resources on our larger and more productive units,” says Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises chairman and chief executive officer Fred Wilson.

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