- Freezing rain
A few days in Las Vegas next week could change Cincinnati's retail landscape for decades.
When the International Council of Shopping Centers starts its annual RECon event May 19, people in charge of several high-profile Cincinnati projects will be there, courting upscale tenants that could turn local developments into regional attractions.
WCPO Digital will be there as well, tracking the progress of developers trying to build Butler County's Liberty Center and rebuild Kenwood Towne Place, Florence's Mall Road corridor and Colerain Township's Northgate Mall district.
We'll also look for retailers who hope to bring new stores to the Tri-State. We will also have our eye out retail trends likely to find their way to local consumers.
RECon is the largest retail real estate convention of the year, with more than 1,000 exhibitors drawing tens of thousands of developers, leasing specialists, government officials and consultants. But this year's show figures to be more impactful for Cincinnati. Not only will attendance hit a post-recession high, approaching 35,000, but retailers and property owners alike are in better shape to make deals than in recent years.
"The economy and the industry is doing better," said Jesse Tron, ICSC spokesman. "There are more retailers expanding, more deals to be had. We're shaping up for a really strong conference."
Developers of Liberty Center certainly hope so. The $400 million Liberty Center project has the potential to challenge Kenwood Towne Centre as the region's dominant retail destination, but only if it can land unique tenants with multi-state drawing power.
In a recent interview with WCPO Digital, Liberty Center developer Yaromir Steiner said the Butler County project will attract tenants comparable to those at Easton Town Center in Columbus.
"It will be one of the top two malls in Cincinnati, probably one of the top 5 malls in the state," he said.
In addition to Liberty Center, brokers and developers working on four recovering mall properties will be looking for new tenants.
The Towne Mall in Middletown, for example, has signed four new restaurants and a handful of small-business retailers in the 465,000-square-foot mall at the intersection of I-75 and State Route 122.
Tri-County Mall in Springdale is headed for an ownership change after several years in loan delinquency.
Northgate Mall in Colerain Township has signed eight new retailers since the Tabani Group from Dallas, Tex., acquired the property out of foreclosure last year. Frank Birkenhauer, Colerain's Director of Development will be looking to build on that momentum in Las Vegas.
"We would like to get some better restaurants in the township," Birkenhauer said. "We'd also really like to attract a hotel. Those are a couple of things we really need. We're also looking at a regional-draw retailer that could be announced in the next three to six months."
Finally, Kenwood Towne Place - recently renamed Kenwood Collection - has emerged from a complicated foreclosure case with a new design and leasing plan that includes a spa and three floors of retail beneath a 220,000-square-foot office building.
Leasing specialist Mark Fallon, vice president of real estate for Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate, described his vision for the project at a May 10 panel discussion, presented by the University of Cincinnati Real Estate Center.
"On the third level, what we're taking a look at is, can we do restaurants, destination type stuff, really upscale," Fallon said. "So, if we have this very cool restaurant collection like in San Francisco, the restaurant collection in San Francisco Center … we have this great sense of arrival, where she goes, she gets out, she feels like it's special."
In addition to Kenwood Towne Place, Fallon also heads up leasing for Rookwood Exchange in Norwood and the Banks riverfront development downtown. In his own bombastic style, Fallon told the UC real estate crowd that Kenwood Towne Centre is about to be challenged by his project and others aspiring to be the region's biggest retail attraction.
"Kenwood Towne Centre told you how cool you are when they stopped at Anthropologie and Coach," Fallon said. "Look what they're putting in that Nordstrom wing. It's unconscionable. A mattress store? You add Nordstrom to Cincinnati so you can put in a mattress store? So, they're saying, ‘We're done. The best mall in town is Kenwood and you guys are done.' We're saying, ‘Hell no.' Stuff that's new to town, stuff that's completely different. That's what will take it to the next level. These out-of-towners are wrong."
The city of Florence is sending Mayor Diane Whalen and Joshua Wice, director of business and community development, to RECon. Both will be looking for unique retailers for the Mall Road corridor, where the city recently invested $13 million in infrastructure improvements.
"We look at retailers that might only have one or two locations in the metro area. Those are the kind of people we target and try to speak with while there," said Wice.
"We want to diversify our restaurant industry. There are several concepts that are not in Florence and we think would do very well here. We think there is a gap that needs to be filled here with the outdoor hunting type retailers. There's really a great opportunity for that here in Florence."
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.