Cincinnati retail rolling the dice: ICSC RECon event brought dealmakers of all stripes to Las Vegas

Phillips Edison: 1,000 meetings in 3 days

LAS VEGAS - Not everything that happens in Vegas stays there. Sometimes, Cincinnati retail developers bring deals home from the retail industry's largest annual leasing convention.

And this year was no different.

Cincinnati companies —from a small army of deal makers who trekked to Las Vegas for Blue Ash –based Phillips Edison & Co. to the solo flyers like Mark Sennett, who is trying to bring a Kroger-anchored grocery center to the rural Butler County community of Maustown —took a variety of approaches at the International Council of Shopping Centers' RECon 2014. 

“We’ll have over a thousand meetings over a period of three days,” said Bob Myers, chief operating officer at Phillips Edison, which acquires and operates grocery-anchored retail centers. “We brought out 72 associates during the show. We’re meeting with retailers, landlords, developers, investment bankers. It’s a great opportunity to do a large portion of our business for the year.”

Phillips Edison has 300 properties and 30 million square feet in 38 states. Its 275 employees need to fill empty space, sell unprofitable centers and buy new properties on a nonstop basis. It has raised more than $2 billion since 2010 through a real estate investment trust, or REIT, that it formed with American Realty Capital Properties Inc., a New York –based real estate company.

The pair expects to raise another $1.7 billion in the next 12 to 16 months. So, it could easily justify the expense of its 5,500-square-foot both at annual event. Myers didn't break down his costs for the event, but a Coldwell Banker executive said its 4,500-square-food exhibit space cost $300,000 and last year's show generated $10 million in commissions for its brokers.

Mark Sennett, on the other hand, did not have a booth. The owner and CEO of Beckmark Inc. came to Las Vegas with a better idea for the Kroger Co., one of 1,100 exhibitors at this year’s show. Kroger is looking to build a new Marketplace store in the West Chester area. But a developer’s request for a zoning change was shot down in March by West Chester Township trustees.

So, Sennett made his first trip to ICSC in seven years, hoping to interest Kroger in an 18.5 acre site he has under option on State Route 747 north of Milliken Road.

“Liberty Township is very limited on commercial space available,” Sennett said. “I think if I come back with not just Kroger but some additional out lots, I could get zoning. I feel the people around it would support it.”

Sennett has other retail and office sites he is looking to develop. So, he visited at least 50 booths over two days, filling two bags with exhibitor swag and marketing materials.

Oakley Station developer Rob Smyjunas took a similar approach. Oakley Station had no booth at ICSC, just Smyjunas, dropping in on potential business partners and perusing his tablet for information while balancing a smart phone on his shoulder.



“The velocity of decision making has picked up so we’re meeting with a number of people to come into Oakley Station,” said Smyjunas, CEO of Vandercar Holdings Inc., which assembled the 74-acre site where $120 million in new development is planned or under construction. So far, the site includes what will be Ohio’s largest Kroger Marketplace store, a 302-unit apartment building and a Cinemark multiplex theater. Plans also include a 400,000-square-foot office cluster that’s competing against The Banks project and Mason for General Electric Co.’s new “shared services” center, expected to house up to 2,000 jobs.

Smyjunas wouldn’t comment on G.E.

He said he met with restaurant, soft goods and service retailers in Las Vegas. He has about 100,000 square feet of retail space available.

“Since we closed with Kroger we have accelerated our leasing activity,” he said.  “We’ll start the site work sometime in July.”

At the Kroger Co. booth in the convention center’s south hall, was Terry Evans, Vice President of Real Estate, courting retailers and investors with used furniture that’s been discarded by other exhibitors. Kroger picked up its blue welcome desk, for example, at last year’s ICSC show. An exhibitor was preparing to leave it behind, so Evans asked if he could take it.



Kroger uses the ICSC show to dispose of assets. It had 40 vacant stores that it was looking to sell this year, including a store on Mall Road recently replaced by a larger Marketplace store. It also had 50 company-owned strip shopping centers where Kroger is an anchor in need of neighbors.

“Nothing’s really ever signed here but you get in front of retailers and present what we have, get the conversation going and you follow up after the convention,” he said.

Evans broke some news Monday when he told WCPO that Kroger has renewed interest in a downtown Cincinnati, thanks

in part to knowledge gained in the acquisition of Harris Teeter Stores Inc.

See Story: Harris Teeter acquisition could lead to new downtown store

Tri-County Mall broke news from the ICSC convention Tuesday when it revealed plans for a $30 million makeover that will include a new main entrance along Princeton Pike.

See Story: Tri-County Mall planning $30 million investment

Phillips Edison broke some news Monday when its new promotional video showed a store with Tiffany colors, fueling speculation that the project is trying to lure the jewelry from downtown. Another storefront in that video, by the way, boasts Burberry-like plaid.  According to sources at the show, The Kenwood Collection is also chasing that British luxury fashion house.

See Story: The Kenwood Collection debuts new design

And Liberty Center developers shed new light plans for a rooftop garden that could set the $300 million mixed-use project apart from its rivals.

See Story: Liberty Center to have 'gem of discovery'

Colerain Township made a return appearance to ICSC this year to visit national retail tenants thinking about space options in Northgate Mall.

“They have a cinema. They have Cheddars. Literally you’re going to have a million more people in the mall parking lot in 2014 than you did a couple years ago,” said Frank Birkenhauer, assistant township administrator and director of development.  “Now they’re ramping up the leasing of their interior space. We’re here to help them in any way that we can.”