Tri-County Mall lands new tenants, courts hotel investors

New owners prepared to invest "millions"

CINCINNATI -- Tri-County Mall has signed a shoe store and a pair of new food court tenants as the first tangible steps in a redevelopment strategy that could add a hotel and more regional drawing power to the 54-year-old shopping center.

Shoe Dept. Encore will fill a 12,000-square-foot space on the mall’s lower level, near an existing Kids Foot Locker location. The store carries a variety of brands in men’s women’s and kids sizes. The mall, located at 11700 Princeton Pike in Springdale, Ohio, also signed new leases with restaurant tenants, Chicken Max and Mango Thai.

These are the first leases signed since Singapore-based SingHaiyi Group Ltd . took ownership of the mall last September.

The 1.3 million-square-foot retail center fell into foreclosure in 2012, leading to its $45 million sale at a Hamilton County sheriff’s auction last July. The mall is 78 percent occupied and is looking to fill empty space by attracting big-box retailers and “junior national” anchors with regional drawing power, said Michael Lyons, general manager.

“The goal isn’t necessarily to expand the mall but to redevelop it and reposition it,” Lyons said “We want to fill the vacancy with the right tenants.”



Lyons said the new owners are prepared to invest millions in the property. A new hotel is planned, as are streetscape improvements that will bring new “lifestyle center” elements to the property, with new store facades and entrances facing Princeton Pike and E. Kemper Road.

“I think it’ll be the perfect hybrid of lifestyle center and enclosed mall,” said Michelle Quick, the mall’s marketing director. “You won’t have to trudge around in the parking lot when it’s snowing. You’ll have your inside stores and lifestyle options as well.”



The Oregon investor that won the foreclosure auction last July later transferred the property to SingHaiyi Group, a publicly-traded company in Singapore. SingHaiyi’s non-executive chairman is Neil Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush, who told WCPO in October that the company would make a significant investment in the property.

“We want to return it to its glory days of prominence in the community,” he said.

SingHaiyi has deeper pockets that its predecessor, which was $203 million in debt when a trustee for lenders filed for foreclosure two years ago.  A March press release said SingHaiyi has a market capitalization of $560 million and is planning to invest $1 billion in U.S. real estate in the next five years.

“(SingHaiyi Group’s) listing in the MSCI Singapore Small Cap Index underscores our improvements in the ratios used by the investment community,” Bush said in the March 11 press release. “We are encouraged that as we expand our capital base and execute our growth strategy, we are increasingly attracting institutional investors.”

In addition to Tri-County Mall, SingHaiyi Group owns a second shopping center in San Jose and a project site for a retirement community development in San Francisco.

Tri-County hired Jones Lang LaSalle to handle leasing duties for the mall, which drew praise from Springdale Economic Development Director Jeff Tulloch. JLL broker Mary Bresnahan helped Northgate Mall find new tenants following its 2012 foreclosure. She is a Columbus-based leasing agent who is working with Melissa Ruther in Cincinnati. Ruther recently joined JLL from Edge Real Estate Group.

“The fact that they hired JLL is a very, very smart move,” Tulloch said. “At one point they were contemplating hiring a person on site to do the leasing and that’s not the way malls get filled up. You need a big name to get the attention of the retailers.”



Real estate research firm Xceligent Inc . reports the vacancy rate in the area surrounding Tri-County Mall is 8.5 percent, but there is more than 400,000 square feet available in smaller retail properties near the mall. So, competition is keen for tenants in the area.

Lyons said traffic counts show the mall is still drawing 400,000 people a month and he expects that number to rise with new tenants and a steady diet of promotional and community events in the months ahead. He thinks the mall’s major anchors are committed for the long term.

Dillard’s Inc . converted its Tri-County store to a clearance format and has committed to opening a new store at Liberty Center in Butler County . Macy’s is using part of its Tri-County store as a fulfillment center, shipping goods to the homes of online buyers.

“The Macy’s here is solid,” Lyons said. “We’ve met with them. They’re committed to the mall. Sears doesn’t report sales but our understanding is it’s the most successful Sears in Cincinnati. We have multiple years left on our agreement with Dillard’s. They’re still a valuable anchor. To some degree their customer base has been modified.

We haven’t seen a specific decline in traffic.”