Sales & acquisitions

Atlanta — Equity Investment Group acquired Hilltop Plaza, a 152,025-sq.-ft. community center in Virginia Beach, Va., from a locally-based owner. Financial terms of the transaction, which was brokered by Miami-based Divaris Real Estate, were not disclosed.

Hilltop Plaza's anchors include North Carolina Furniture Co., Office Depot and JoAnn Fabrics & Crafts.

Equity Investment Group is a privately held REIT with offices in Atlanta and Fort Wayne, Ind. The firm will provide both leasing and management for Hilltop Plaza.

New York — UrbanAmerica L.P. announced it closed on 14 retail properties valued in excess of $97 million in its first 10 months of activity in 2000.

The New York-based firm describes itself as the first commercial real estate investment company focused exclusively on acquiring and developing properties in American inner cities. UrbanAmerica focuses its investment dollars in Empowerment Zones, Enterprise Communities and low- and moderate-income inner-city neighborhoods.

The acquired retail properties include: Tampa Festival ($5.8 million), Tampa, Fla.; Eastover Shopping Center ($19.5 million), Oxon Hill, Md.; South Capital Shopping Center ($4.435 million), Fort Davis Shopping Center ($4.389 million), and East River Center ($13.5 million), all in Washington, D.C.; Dolphin Center ($6.159 million), Opa Locka, Fla.; Lakes Mall ($5.636 million), Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.; Collins Park Commons ($29 million), Detroit; and Nucleus Plaza ($6.7 million), Las Vegas.

New York — Fashion apparel designer Salvatore Ferragamo of Florence, Italy, acquired a 2,600-sq.-ft. retail condominium in Manhattan's SoHo shopping district. The seller was Laundry Industry, a fashion retailer based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The transaction was arranged by New York City-based Newmark New Spectrum Retail LLC. Financial terms were not disclosed. Jedd Nero, Newmark's executive vice president, notes SoHo has become an essential location for global fashion retailers, rivaling even Madison Avenue in desirability.

North Cape May, N.J. — R.M. Singer & Associates of Towson, Md., sold Bay Shore Mall in North Cape May, N.J., to Bay Shore Mall Associates LLC, New Jersey, for an undisclosed sum.

The 165,000-sq.-ft. open-air community center is anchored by Acme Supermarket, Ames Department Store, and Thrift Drug. It was built in 1989 and renovated in 1998. The property, which was 90% occupied at closing, includes 50,000 sq. ft. of expansion area, providing ample space for additional shops or a third anchor. There is an additional pad site for sale or lease.

New York City-based Cohen and Co. Inc. acted as the sole broker in the transaction. Senior managing director Vera Thomas and managing director Louis Ginsberg represented R.M. Singer & Associates. Helen Putterman, president of Cohen and Co., represented Bay Shore Mall Associates.

Cohen and Co. is a full-service brokerage firm that specializes in the sale of shopping centers in the United States. Its recent sales have exceeded $1.3 billion in 38 states.

Newport Beach, Calif. — Donahue Schriber acquired the 250,395-sq.-ft. Camarillo Village Square shopping center in Camarillo, Calif., from San Francisco-based EDM Realty. The purchase price was $20.9 million.

Donahue Schriber plans to remodel the center and renovate the plaza area in front of anchor tenant Albertson's grocery store. The center also includes a Rite Aid drugstore and more than 30 stores and restaurants.

Camarillo Village Square is the second Ventura County property acquired by the Newport Beach-based REIT. “Our strategy is to continue to acquire neighborhood, community and power centers to grow our portfolio in the western states,” notes chairman Dan Donahue.

St. Louis — Bianco Properties entered the Seattle commercial real estate market by acquiring Lynnwood Plaza shopping center in Lynnwood, Wash., for $10.5 million. The seller was Center Trust Inc. of Manhattan Beach, Calif.

The 69,432-sq.-ft. shopping center, which is located directly across from one of the premier regional malls in Puget Sound, includes a mix of local and national tenants, including a 25,000-sq.-ft World Lighting store. The 14-tenant center was built in 1988 and is 100% leased.

St. Louis-based Bianco Properties now maintains a portfolio of commercial, industrial and office properties valued at more than $130 million.

Dayton, Ohio — RG Properties acquired a majority interest in Piqua East Mall, a 300,000-sq.-ft. retail center in Piqua, Ohio, from New York-based general partnership I-75 Associates.

Atlanta-based retailer The Home Depot — which plans to demolish a vacant Sears on the site of the property to build a 132,000-sq.-ft. store and garden center — acquired the remaining balance.

Bo Gunlock, vice president of development for Dayton-based RG Properties, notes that the Piqua East Mall is now valued at about $4 million. Anchors include Heilig-Meyers, JoAnn Fabrics & Crafts and Big Lots. RG Properties will reposition and redevelop the mall. JoAnn Fabrics & Crafts will triple the size of its store, and other retailers will be relocated.

RG Properties plans to renovate about 150,000 sq. ft. of Piqua East Mall and will change the mall's name to Miami Valley Crossing. The property is adjacent to the Miami Valley Center regional mall, Gunlock notes. “With the Miami Valley Center as the regional draw for the area, and with The Home Depot as the anchor for this re-development, we believe we can attract a number of strong national and regional retailers,” Gunlock says.

“The Piqua Improvement Corporation helped us secure a contract to purchase an additional 30 acres east of the site,” he says. “This land should allow us enough room to bring the additional anchor retailers.”

RG Properties has developed nearly 7 million sq. ft. of commercial real estate in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky during the past 15 years.

Management contracts

Newport Beach, Calif. — Donahue Schriber took over the management of Clairmont Town Square, a 550,000-sq.-ft. neighborhood center in San Diego.

The 78-store center is anchored by Vons, Circuit City, Sav-on, T.J. Maxx, Michaels Crafts, Pacific Theatres, Crown Books Superstore, and Burlington Coat Factory. Clairmont Town Square was built in 1956 and expanded in 1970 and 1975. The State Teachers' Retirement System of Ohio acquired the center for $35 million, investing an additional $17 million in its ongoing redevelopment.

Consumers point to shopping ‘must haves’

New York — A study from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business and KPMG LLP finds that consumers have definite views on what they are looking for in the “ideal shopping experience,” both online and in-store. The research shows that more complex technologies are not at the top of the wish list.

The study, called “Creating the Ideal Shopping Experience: What Consumers Want in the Physical and Virtual Store,” is a survey of 2,120 people nationwide. The research measures consumers' acceptance of technology and offers insights on how consumers say they want to shop.

The study found that when shopping online consumers insist on having accurate product and pricing information, convenient and secure ordering, order tracking, reliable delivery and accessible customer service. In stores, shoppers want knowledgeable and courteous sales help, competitive prices, fast checkout and convenient payment options.

The study also reveals several shopping features that some consumers would prefer not to have. Consumers have the strongest negative reactions to options that intrude on their personal privacy or increase the complexity of shopping.

For example 21% of shoppers dislike having a handheld scanner tell them which products match their personal profile, and 16% object to having a salesperson look up their purchase history in order to make shopping suggestions. As well, 36% of respondents prefer not to have in-store prices that change daily based on stock levels and competition.

“Consumers tell us they are not interested in technology for its own sake,” says Dr. Raymond Burke, the E. W. Kelley Professor of Business Administration at Indiana University. “People want the basics in their ideal shopping experience and they are only interested in technology to the extent that it makes shopping faster, easier, and more economical.”

Mark Larson, national partner-in-charge of KPMG's retail practice adds, “Today's consumers have more choice than ever before — in stores, brands, and channels.

“That's why retailers need to consistently deliver the right value proposition to their customers across all shopping channels,” Larson continues. “Technology can be a very helpful tool in that process but to create value successful retailers will know how and when to use it in the shopping process.”

Source: Indiana University/KPMG