— A team made up of JMB Realty Inc. and a unit of New York-based Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. tried for more than 10 years to get something developed on downtown's Block 37, but failed to produce.
In late July, the frustrated city moved to take back ownership and, sources say, theteam isn't putting up a fight. The city reached a tentative agreement to buy out the partners in FJV Ventures for about $39 million — the same amount the city pledged in tax-increment financing for a project that looked promising last summer.
That plan called for a $251 million development including a 160,000-sq.-ft. Lord & Taylor surrounded by 216,000 sq. ft. of restaurant/retail space, and a Marriott Suites Hotel and 22 levels of upscale condos. However, tightening in the hospitality financing market killed the hotel option. And lenders now require 40% to 50% pre-leasing for condo developments — a requirement that could take at least a year to fulfill. The city plans to put out requests for proposals, and it may select a new developer by year's end.
Washington, D.C. — The National Retail Federation unveiled a new Internet site to provide educational content to consumers and legislators on fair and equitable sales tax collection. The website, located at www.salestaxfairness.com, is an attempt to provide a digital clearinghouse for information on the Internet taxation issue at a time when Congress and state governments are struggling to update antiquated sales tax systems to accommodate 21st century commerce.
Atlanta — Arlington, Va.-based The Mills Corp. has let some of the air out of its development plans for regional center Discover Mills. Originally planned to encompass 1.7 million sq. ft. of GLA, Discover Mills will now occupy 1.4 million sq. ft. Mills plans to use the extra 300,000 sq. ft. for future outparcel development. The mall is set to open Nov. 2.
Las Vegas — Steve Wynn is at it again. The resort impresario plans to develop a 45-level, 2,455-room, high-rise resort at the center of the Las Vegas Strip. The as-yet-unnamed project will be a $1.3 billion enterprise, financed in part by Tokyo-based Aruze Corp., a possible bond sale, and Wynn's own funds.
Located near the site of Wynn's Desert Inn holding, the new resort's development plan calls for 70,000 sq. ft. of retail GLA, 132,000 sq. ft. of convention space, a 120,000 sq. ft. casino and 15 restaurant and entertainment venues.
Bloomington, Minn. — QVC @ The Mall, a subsidiary of West Chester, Pa.-based QVC Inc., plans to open a flagship store with broadcasting capabilities at Simon Property Group's Mall of America.
QVC @ The Mall experimented by testing a 500-sq.-ft. temporary space with a limited-term lease. Based on the test's success, a new, 2,500-sq.-ft. store is under construction at the 4.2 million-sq.-ft. mall. In addition, QVC Inc. signed a 10-year sponsorshipto become the official interactive commerce partner of Mall of America.
SIDEBAR: Regionals on the rebound
Whoever said the regional mall is an outdated concept isn't attending the dizzying round of grand opening celebrations occurring this year. Across the United States, and in a span of only a few months, major regional centers from Taubman, Glimcher, Mills, Westcor, Forest City, CBL and TrizecHahn are opening to great fanfare.
“There is still a place for the regional mall,” says Brian Ratner, executive vice president, East Coast development at Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises. “As long as the product is differentiated enough.”
And this year's crop of regionals are celebrating diversity. Indoor/outdoor hybrid, porte cochere entrances and food courts that act as anchors rather than as central mall components are a few of the ways these regionals are distinguishing themselves. And if opening day traffic counts are any indication, consumers are responding well.
Taubman's 1.6 million-sq.-ft. The Shops at Willow Bend attracted a total of 285,000 visitors during its opening weekend in early August.
Ratner says regional mall development will continue apace as long as demographic areas exist that will support the projects. “People don't have as much time to shop and want to spend less time at the mall. Therefore, the development community is adapting its products, whether they be regional malls or lifestyle centers, to accommodate these trends.”