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PHOENIX-As the owner of 39 shopping centers comprising 18 million sf of space in and around this city, Westcor is by far the dominant owner and developer of retail space in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Region and, arguably, one of the most dominant owners of retail space any place in the country. Based on a plan called Phoenix 20/20 that Westcor unveiled recently at the ICSC Spring Convention in Las Vegas, the company stands to solidify and expand that dominance considerably in the coming years.

Phoenix 20/20, as explained to GSR by Westcor SVPs Dave Scholl and Tracey Gotsis, will create five new centers of retail development that are being designed and timed in response to and in anticipation of the continuing growth that is transforming Phoenix. As Gotsis explains, Westcor chose to name its plan “20/20″ because the concept of “20/20″ conveys several meanings that describe what the Westcor plan is all about. In one respect, the “20″ of Phoenix 20/20 means that Westcor is planning for the next 20 years of growth in the Phoenix area. In another sense, “20/20″ refers to the “clear vision” that Westcor has for the next 20 years of growth in Metropolitan Phoenix, Gotsis says.

The first of the five projects in Westcor’s Phoenix 20/20 plan is SanTan Village in Gilbert, AZ, an open-air design that will include one portion that is a regional shopping center on a 120-acre site and another portion that is a power center with large-format retailers. Westcor is scheduled to break ground for the regional center in October, having lined up Dillard’s, Robinson’s May and Harkins Theatres as anchors. The theater portion of the regional center is due to open in the fall of 2006, with the rest of the project scheduled for opening in the fall of 2007. The power center, opening in phases this year and next, will include Bed Bath & Beyond, Circuit City, Costco, Jo-AnnSuper Store, Marshalls, OfficeMax, a Wal-Mart Supercenter, a Sam’s Club and others.

The other four centers, which are in varying stages of entitlements, include two that will be named Prasada and Estrella Falls. The other two centers have not been formally named yet, but they are planned for the Paradise Ridge and North Black Canyon areas of the Greater Phoenix region.

Prasada, part of a 4,200-acre master-planned community in the City of Surprise, will feature a retail core of more than 800 acres of shopping, dining and entertainment, including a Harkins Theatre. Prasada will includes several neighborhood and power center projects, as well as a regional mall, with the power centers slated to open in 2007 and the regional mall in 2010. Estrella Falls, in the community of Goodyear, is a 300-acre mixed-use retail development that will include a regional shopping center, power centers and other commercial uses. It is projected to open in 2008. Paradise Ridge is a 2,200-acre master-planned community in the Scottsdale-Northeast Phoenix area where Westcor’s retail component will include 700 acres of shopping, dining and entertainment. The North Black Canyon Corridor development is planned for a site off Interstate 17 at the Carefree Highway exit in Phoenix, where Westcor has acquired approximately 100 acres and could obtain an additional 100 acres through the state land auction process. The company envisions the North Black Canyon project as “the Irvine Spectrum of Phoenix” a reference to the Irvine Co.’s highly successful development in Orange County, CA. No date has been set for the openings at North Black Canyon and Paradise Ridge, although Westcor is thinking that the projects might be ready in 2008 or 2009. All of the future dates are subject to change, Gotsis says, explaining that the Westcor strategy “is completely market-driven.”

The Phoenix 20/20 plan will expand a Westcor portfolio that already includes 14 regional centers, three specialty retail centers and 22 urban villages in the Phoenix area. Westcor, which is based in Phoenix, began building the portfolio in 1970 and had pretty much cornered the Phoenix area retail market by the time it was acquired in 2002 by Santa Monica, CA-based Macerich, one of the country’s largest shopping center REITs. Westcor, which now operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of Macerich, has created what SVPs Scholl and Gotsis suggest is one of the most comprehensive regional retail development plans ever envisioned by a single developer for a specific urban area. The company can adopt such a broad regional approach, they say, because Westcor already has such a strong presence in the Phoenix area that it can plan future developments to complement its existing projects.

An advantage of its 20/20 plan for both Westcor and retailers, Scholl points out, is that the developer can sit down with retailers and explain to them where the major retail projects will take shape in the Phoenix area in coming years—allowing retailers to choose sites that fit their own requirements for how close or how far apart they like to space their stores. Gotsis says that Westcor’s dominance in the marketplace is already paying dividends in that the company has been able to promote the Westcor name as a brand. While creating a brand image may or may not be feasible on a national scale for companies that own centers scattered around the country, Westcor has such a concentration of centers in the Phoenix geographic area that branding works there, she says. “Our continual market research says that the Westcor Brand has a 95% unprompted recall amongst our shoppers,” Gotsis comments. “It was our customers who encouraged us to brand Westcor–through focus groups,” she adds. “They loved to be able to say they shopped a Westcor property.”

Because of its concentration of retail centers and its in-depth knowledge of the Phoenix geographic market area, Westcor has fashioned a Phoenix 20/20 plan that is designed, the company says, to develop “the right projects in the right locations at the right time.” While the maxim that “retail follows rooftops” still applies, its 20/20 plan suggests that in some cases, at least, the retail will be ready and waiting when the rooftops arrive.

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