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ST. ANN, MO-Los Angeles-based private equity real estate corporation, Somera Capital Management LLC, has acquired the 1.8-million-sf Northwest Plaza from Australia-based Westfield Group for $45 million. According to the new owner’s plans, the 122-acre site located at North Lindbergh Boulevard and St. Charles Rock Road will undergo a substantial renovation.

“There is a long-term opportunity to do something truly exciting with this site,” says Steve Plenge, Somera executive vice president. “We envision Northwest Plaza as being much different than it is today when we complete the repositioning of the property.”

Built in 1968 as one of the first open-air shopping centers in the St. Louis area, Northwest Plaza was converted in 1989 into an enclosed shopping mall. The property is 18 miles northwest of Downtown St. Louis and currently includes a one-level mall, an attached 12-story office building and six outparcels. The mall has 134 in-line retail stores, an entertainment center and four anchors including Famous-Barr, Dillard’s, Sears, and Steve & Barry’s. According to Westfield figures, the carrying value of Northwest Plaza as of Dec. 31 was $41.6 million.

In May, Westfield group managing director Peter Lowy announced the company was divesting itself of eight non-strategic assets, “since they no longer fit within our investment criteria nor are they in our long-term redevelopment plans.” The sales generated $550 million in separate transactions with Aussie neighbor Centro Properties Group and Somera Capital.

Somera Capital acquired the Midwest property in partnership with Zelman Development Co., a Los Angeles-based commercial real estate developer. The team retained Callison Architecture to conceptualize initial plans for the property and General Growth Properties has been selected to manage, lease, and provide redevelopment services for the property. Financing was provided by RBS Greenwich Capital, with Eastdil Secured serving as the mortgage broker.

Since targeting the retail assets in 2002, Northwest Plaza is the seventh mall acquisition for Somera. The company also owns Metrocenter, a 1.4-million-sf shopping center in Phoenix, and Queen Ka’ahumanu, a 570,000-sf center in Maui, HI. It recently acquired Laurel Mall in the Washington, DC area.

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