Moving Dirt

Redevelopments may still be king, but new growth breaks through

There wasn’t a retail real estate insider in the country who didn’t send up a little cheer on March 22, when the only regional shopping center to open in 2012 did just that — it opened. To retailers. To dignitaries. To shoppers.

In fact, when City Creek Center owner/operator Taubman snipped the ceremonial ribbon draping the entrance of the downtown Salt Lake City center, the significance couldn’t have been lost on anyone, not even the “civilians” in attendance.

A new shopping center came out of the ground. On that one day, just like the day a year earlier when Forest City’s 1.3 million-sq.-ft. masterpiece Westchester’s Ridge Hill opened in Yonkers, N.Y., we could focus on growth, and not on an agonizingly slow economic recovery.

Like Ridge Hill, City Creek Center isn’t your run-of-the-mill regional shopping center. If I were comparing it with ice cream, I’d liken City Creek to Pecan Praline Crunch (yes, my Louisiana roots are showing). With whipped cream and sprinkles.

A retractable skylight roof — the first in the United States on a mall — covers the 700,000-sq.-ft. retail and dining destination. A 140-ft. skybridge creates a column-less connection between city blocks and offers a stop-off point from which to view Main Street. A 1,200-ft. creek (recreating historic City Creek, no less) courses through the property, and two 18-ft. waterfalls cascade onto sandstone boulders.

It wouldn’t be practical to focus just on the bells and whistles, though, because we all know that the only sound that really counts is the ring of cash registers.

Ninety-two retailers opened in concert with the opening of the center, with another three stores slated to open in 2012. Nordstrom and Macy’s are anchors, and a third of the stores and restaurants are new to the city or the state, including Tiffany & Co., Michael Kors, Coach, Tumi and Brooks Brothers.

This April/May issue of Chain Store Age — geared toward the International Council of Shopping Centers’ RECon event in Las Vegas this month — has a good bit of development chatter, but don’t discount the importance of the redevelopment movement. Our annual survey of Top Developers demonstrates a weighted focus on rehabs over new build, as you might expect, and our annual RECon preview confirms that redevelopments will take center stage at the Vegas convention.

Just as developers keep building and rehabbing, acquirers keep buying and third-party managers continue to add properties to their management portfolios at a dizzying rate, dominated by CB Richard Ellis and Jones Lang LaSalle. Enjoy!

kboccaccio@chainstoreage.com