Friday, January 3, 2003

Forest Fair Mall boots some shops



By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The new owners of Forest Fair Mall are giving some of the mall's tenants until the end of the month to vacate the property to allow for major renovations.

The Mills Corp. of Arlington, Va., which agreed in September to buy the mall from Gator Investments for $69.4 million, says it needs to clear out parts of the mall to transform the property into one similar to its 13 other properties.

The move could affect more than 30 tenants, the company said. Some longtime retailers were caught off guard.

"This came as a complete surprise,'' said Mel Nadler, who has operated Nadlers men's store at Forest Fair since it opened in 1989. "It is not very businesslike to wait and give retailers a 30-day notice to get out when they've already got merchandise coming in for spring sales. There's no way we can get rid of it that fast and no way that we can move to another location in that time.''

Mills, known for its innovative retail mix, has promised to reposition the struggling Forest Fair Mall as a regional attraction that will offer entertainment as well as shopping. Elements of recent Mills' projects include multiplex movie theaters, themed restaurants and even extreme-sports skate parks.

"Due to the scope of the improvements we will make, it will be necessary to close significant portions of the mall,'' the company said in a statement Thursday. "Unfortunately, that means some temporary tenants are being asked to vacate, and some permanent tenants will need to close until we reopen.''

Temporary tenants are considered those with lease agreements of a year or less, Audrie Thomas, property manager at Forest Fair, said Thursday.

Mills plans begin renovations Feb. 1, but would not provide details of changes.

Although some tenants will be asked to leave, major anchors such as Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, Kohl's and Burlington Coat Factory will likely remain open during the remodeling, Ms. Thomas said.

E-mail rtucker@enquirer.com



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