From appalling to appealing, Kenwood Collection aims to transform the region's biggest eyesore

New interior designs unveiled at ICSC event

LAS VEGAS - A rooftop terrace and three-story skylights are among the new design features being shown to potential tenants of Kenwood Collection, the office and retail project that was formerly known as Kenwood Towne Place.

A promotional video on display at the International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas this week marks the first time developers have shared their vision of what the project will look like after renovation. Until now, only images of the building's exterior were shared publicly.

Developer David Birdsall stressed the designs are preliminary and subject to the execution of a leasing plan that involves the recruitment of several luxury retailers to the site. Birdsall would not identify any tenants he talked to in Las Vegas but confirmed he was able to meet with several luxury brands and the results were initially positive.

"They actually stayed for the whole presentation," said Birdsall, president of the Strategic Investment Fund at Phillips Edison & Co. "(They) didn't really think about Cincinnati like that. (They) didn't think about Cincinnati as the Chicago of the Midwest. It's a two-step process. Now, we've got to convince them this plan is good  … if you land one, you keep landing all of them."

Kenwood Towne Place was the office and retail project that was left unfinished at I-71 and Montgomery Road when unpaid contractors walked off the job in late 2008. That led to one of the most complicated foreclosure cases in Hamilton County's history. Lead developer Matt Daniels was indicted on bank fraud charges last November.

An investment group organized by Phillips Edison & Co. bought Kenwood Towne Place out of foreclosure last summer, saying it would invest up to $120 million on its revival.

Birdsall hired BHDP Architecture and Reztark Design Studio to craft a new design that would show luxury retailers the environment they could expect if they came to Cincinnati. Renderings show three stories of retail configured around a long glass atrium, with lots of exposed beams and glass letting natural light into traditional mall space.

Birdsall hired Jones Lang LaSalle to find seven floors of office tenants and Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate to lease its 300,000 square feet of retail space.

Both Anderson and Phillips Edison are showing the new interior-design renderings of Kenwood Collection in separate booths at the ICSC's annual Global Retail Real Estate Convention, or RECon. Both booths were very busy on Monday. Anderson's top leasing executive, Mark Fallon, deferred comments to Birdsall, who broke away from tenant meetings for a five-minute conversation late Tuesday.

"It's going to be an upscale project with brands that aren't currently in Cincinnati, or the majority of them are not. And we think there's a place for that," he said. "Listen, it's got the largest concentration of wealth in Ohio. In 90 minutes you can get to Louisville, Lexington, Dayton, eastern Indiana, western Ohio. There are pockets of tremendous wealth. Five million people. If you look at the amount of Fortune 500 companies who are bringing people, transferring in and out, with international experience. So, they've seen Milan. They've been to Tokyo and Vegas and some of the greatest shopping places, so they understand it. They're sophisticated."

Birdsall said no tenants were signed at the show, nor were any expected. But veteran local retail broker Chris Hodge is convinced it will happen.

"David will do a great job of that, no doubt," said Hodge, first vice president in the Cincinnati office of CB Richard Ellis. "They will figure it out. That's exactly what needed to happen. It needed to stay with somebody local who gets it."

WCPO Digital Reporter Dan Monk is covering the convention to bring the latest news and developments related to the future of retailing in the Tri-State. Check back daily for updates.


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