Tri-County Mall planning $30 million investment to attract new tenants

Deals close on upscale restaurant tenants

LAS VEGAS - The new owners of Tri-County Mall have a $30 million budget for the first phase of the shopping center’s revitalization project, general manager Michael Lyons told WCPO in an exclusive interview at the International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas.

“It’s not cheap,” Lyons said. “We’re looking to bring the right tenants in and looking to add the right aesthetic elements that come with a lifestyle center. So that comes with a cost and this ownership has gained an understanding of that cost and they have the ability to pull it off. “

A new leasing plan and project renderings prepared for the ICSC event show a grand new entrance facing State Route 747 with broader landscaped sidewalks for outdoor dining. Neither Lyons nor members of his leasing team would identify tenants, but they said retailer interest is strong enough that they expect new leases to be signed within 60 days.

A steak house and an Italian restaurant are likely to claim the prime new spots on either side of the mall’s main entrance, said Melissa Ruther, vice president of retail brokerage for Jones Lang LaSalle.

“The steak restaurant would be a rebrand of a concept that’s already in the market,” Ruther added. “The Italian restaurant is new to the Cincinnati market.”

Built in 1960, the 1.3 million-square-foot mall has a 22 percent vacancy rate caused by the recession, retail expansion to the north and a foreclosure action against the property’s former owners. SingHaiyi Group Ltd., a Singapore-based real estate investment company, paid $45 million for the property at a sheriff’s auction last July.

The company has previously announced plans to bring a hotel and new retail tenants to the mall but hasn’t revealed cost estimates until now. The latest design elements were first disclosed to retailers two weeks ago. This is the first time they’ve been released to any media outlet.

Ruther said soft goods retailers ranging from 10,000 to 70,000 square feet have expressed interest in opening stores at Tri-County, which has more than 650,000 people living within 10 miles and an average household income of $73,242 within a five mile radius. That income is projected to grow 18 percent to $85,796 by 2018, according to the marketing materials.

“This is not a dying area. This is an area with high demographics, a lot of traffic,” said Mary Bresnahan, also a Jones Lang LaSalle vice president. She said the leasing plan and renovation represents “what the neighbors deserve.”

The leasing plan includes freestanding quick-service restaurants on lots close to Princeton Pike. The first phase also includes a limited service hotel with a banquet and conference center that will generate traffic for restaurants and retail tenants.

The mall is “talking to three different operators” for the hotel, Ruther said. She declined to name the candidates.

Cincinnati had a 12.5 percent retail vacancy rate in the first quarter of 2014, according to Reis Reports, a real estate data firm. That’s down from last year’s rate of 13.7 percent but higher than the national rate of 10.4 percent, said Frederick Schmidt, president and chief operating officer of Coldwell Banker Commercial Affiliates LLC. Also on the plus side, retail rents rose here by 1.8 percent in the first quarter.

“You’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “It’s slow, steady growth.”

Schmidt said Tri-County benefits from being in a market with high quality of life ratings and a strong roster of Fortune 500 companies. So,

“If you have a landlord that can stabilize the rents and repurpose, put some money into it, that’s an encouraging sign,” he said. “If the anchors are stable, they probably can do some things to reposition it.”

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