Thursday, February 13, 2003

Developer planning Mason mall site

Documents: 2 retail plazas in the works

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A Columbus developer plans a two-part retail project near The Beach waterpark in Mason that will include a large upscale mall across the road from a plaza of big-box discount retailers.

Although Glimcher Realty Trust hasn't yet submitted plans to Mason city officials, documents obtained by the Enquirer show that Glimcher wants to build a 1.6 million-square-foot mall with five department stores and a possible movie theater on the north side of Kings Mill Road. It's also recruiting discount chains for a plaza with 613,000 square feet of shops and restaurants on the south side.

Glimcher officials aren't talking about their plans in Mason. But observers say it's similar to Glimcher's Polaris Fashion Place, located in northern Columbus near the Franklin-Delaware county border. Polaris has more than 150 specialty stores, including seven anchors: Saks Fifth Avenue, Kaufmann's, Lord & Taylor, Lazarus, Sears, JC Penney and The Great Indoors. It also has a food court and three restaurants, including California Pizza Kitchen.
The two projects west of Interstate 71 would be similar to Glimcher's upscale Polaris Fashion Place in Columbus, with the big-box development likely to come before the mall, according to real estate brokers and city officials.

"If you look at what they are doing, it is almost shockingly similar to their Polaris development, which has been very successful," said Chris Hodge, of Grubb & Ellis, West Shell Commercial.

Glimcher officials refused to publicly discuss what it plans to build on two large tracts of what is mostly farmland north and south of Kings Mill Road. The Columbus developer has the option to buy all but a few acres of the land, owned by Al Neyer Inc.. and Ed Kennedy.

Privately, Glimcher has told city engineers that it's working on a traffic study and curb design details to ensure a smooth flow of vehicles for the thousands of cars expected to pass daily. Plans circulated by the developer indicate that the mall and big-box plaza will have in excess of 10,000 parking spaces.

Mason Mayor John McCurley said the city's planning commission will scrutinize any traffic impact from such a development.

"Traffic will be a major concern," McCurleysaid. "We're also concerned that local neighborhoods are well protected by greenspace and landscaping."

But the mayor added that a well-planned, upscale retail development would be the best fit instead of "having a hodgepodge or mix of retail uses."

Glimcher's project is the latest of a half-dozen mall or shopping centers jockeying for tenants in the affluent northern suburbs.

So far, only two projects have announced stores and started construction: Continental Retail Development's Streets of West Chester at Interstate 71 and Union Centre Boulevard and Midland Atlantic's Voice of America Centre at Cox and Tylersville roads.

Two other West Chester mall plans have stalled, and Anderson Real Estate and Casto Realty are still recruiting tenants for a lifestyle center at Mason-Montgomery Road in Deerfield Township.

The intense interest for retail development in the northern suburbs has prompted owners of older Tristate malls within or along the Interstate 275 loop to upgrade or expand their properties.

New owners of malls such as Kenwood Towne Centre and Forest Fair Mall (to be renamed Cincinnati Mills) promise multimillion dollar renovations with new tenants and interior touches. Beechmont Mall, too, plans to add new attractions, and developers of Rookwood Pavilion and Rookwood Commons in Norwood are pursuing a $125 million expansion dubbed Rookwood Exchange.

Some retail brokers warn that malls that don't improve could face significant challenges from new or renovated properties.

"Tri-County and Northgate (malls) better hang on to their socks, because it is going to be a hard couple of years for them," Hodge said.

It's unknown what stores Glimcher is pursing, but Hodge thinks that its location off I-71 and near the Tristate's wealthiest households will pique the interest of national retail chains and unique shops.

Glimcher is working with Brandt Retail Group to kick-start its big-box development south of Kings Mill Road. Brandt, based in Kenwood, has extensive ties with retailers such as Target, Borders Books, Costco and Trader Joe's.

"We're working on that," Steve Brandt said. "Glimcher's in the process of working for the anchor tenants."

Lifelong Mason resident Sallie Nally, who owns Mason Sign Co. and lives on Kings Mill Road, said she has mixed feelings about the mall. It would be a convenient shopping spot, but also could be a potential traffic nightmare.

"I don't know if we need more of stuff that we already have," the 42-year-old mother of two said. "I don't want to see traffic increase, and I don't want to see my road widened for a developer. ... But I guess I would rather see that instead of homes."

Steve Schwandner, who lives about a half-mile from the proposed mall, wants to see an attractive, well-planned project.

He's in a unique position because he owns a 3.4-acre parcel that Glimcher covets for the project - the last piece of property that Glimcher doesn't control for the project, he said.

He bought the property a few years ago with an eye toward the expansion of his consulting business, Seeideas Product Development. Now he's willing to sell at the right price.

"I am pro-development as long as it's well controlled and helps the overall area," Schwandner said.

Enquirer staff writer Erica Solvig contributed to this report.


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