Strip redevelopment in first tier suburbs: a success story.
It probably wasn't what Carson Pirie Scott had in mind.
In 1957, the department store opened Edens Plaza, at the time a 283,000-square-foot, 20-acre open-air community shopping center in Wilmette, Ill., an affluent Chicago suburb. Carson's was the sole anchor.
For a long time, everything was fine. But as any commercial property will, Edens Plaza aged. Carson's generally does not develop and manage shopping centers, noted Pad Ruby, who was vice president of real estate with Carson's in the early 1990s, when a redevelopment effort began. Today he is senior vice president of real estate with Bon Ton Stores, Carson's parent.
Before that point, Edens Plaza for years was "starved for capital and it wasn't a high priority," Ruby said.
"It died a certain typical kind of slow death," agreed John Adler, formerly director of community development for the town of Wilmette; he now works for Mountain Village, Colo.
Edens Plaza became outdated, especially in the face of competition from what today is known as Westfield Old Orchard, just south of Edens Old Orchard opened in 1956 and is now anchored by Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Nordstrom and Lord & Taylor. It was remodeled several times, said Dennis Harder, vice president, development services with Joseph Freed and Associates LLC, the Palatine, Ill.-based developer that eventually reworked Edens Plaza.
Stagnating, Edens couldn't compete with Old Orchard, sources said, and by 1990, Edens was mostly vacant, except for Carson's Even its restaurants "never succeeded," Harder said.
Clearly an overhaul was in order.
Freed saw potential at Edens Plaza due to its "excellent location in the heart of Chicago's affluent North Shore," Harder said.
On the other hand, "the site was severely under-utilized and was never effectively merchandised," a Freed fact sheet summarized.
"We bought it in extremely decrepit shape," Harder said.
Carson's retained ownership of its store--today it also operates a furniture store at the center, and owns some of the land--but sold the rest of the site to Freed. q-he land sale gave Carson's capital for a store upgrade, Ruby added.
Freed expanded Edens Plaza to include 340,000 square feet of gross leasable area, and reconfigured the center to capitalize on its visibility from nearby Interstate 94, known locally as Edens Expressway. Freed turned stores outward to face the expressway, and remerchandised the property as an open-air specialty shopping center, according to a company fact sheet.
Anchors Freed recruited were exactly the categories Wilmette was lacking, Adler said. For example, a Wilmette bookstore was going out of business, he said; Freed added Borders Books and Music. Residents previously had to leave town to shop for bed and bath items; Freed brought in Bed Bath & Beyond.
Other tenants include Starbucks, Comer Bakery, Birkenstock, Road Runner Sports, a day spa and more. The redevelopment brought Edens up to full occupancy, Harder said.
The work required demolishing a few buildings while ensuring that Carson's remained open and accessible throughout construction, Harder said. But the bigger challenge was parking.
Wilmette's rules required one parking space for every 200 square feet of retail, Adler said. Town officials recognized that parking could be problematic for Edens Plaza, because there is no alternative offsite parking to accommodate overflow traffic on busy days, Adler said.
The town worried that people would park elsewhere, then try crossing major roadways surrounding Edens on foot, clearly an unsafe move. The concern was not only over holiday shopping seasons but for more regular visits by customers to the redeveloped center's cluster of restaurants
The town wanted underground parking, but that was too expensive, Harder said.
Freed wanted to build a parking garage, he said, but the town balked at what it felt would be an ugly, urban structure in what they preferred to think of as a pastoral suburban setting.
Eventually, Freed got a variance from the town for one parking spot per 220 square feet, Adler said. The center has 1,372 parking spaces. Freed persuaded the town that, although parking could be problematic during peak shopping days, the rest of the year, parking is in demand at different times for stores and restaurants, so the center could shrink its parking lot accordingly.
"It seems to have worked over time" Harder said--though today, discussions of adding outparcels are prompting more head-scratching over how to squeeze more parking onto the site.
"Looking back on it, probably more communities are saying, 'Why did we make them build all that parking?' "Adler said. Vast lots aren't pretty and they're typically only filled a few days per year, he noted.
Edens Plaza held a grand reopening in 1995. Since the redevelopment, the center has gained grocer The Fresh Market.
Today Edens is fully leased, and Harder notes that Freed always has more tenants ready to move in should a vacancy occur. Freed's fact sheet claims it "dramatically altered the retail imbalance in the trade area."
Edens Plaza looks good, too, Harder said: "Our design and architecture have aged very well."
Details: For more information, contact Christy McFarland at (202) 626-3036 or firstname.lastname@example.org. All delegates at NLC's Congress of Cities are invited to attend the upcoming meeting of the First Tier Suburbs Council on November 15 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The focus of the meeting Hill be strip center redevelopment and Hill feature the Edens Plaza case study.
Maura K. Ammenheuser is a regular contributor to Shopping Centers Today, a publication of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). ICSC, an NLC Corporate Partner, is working closely with the First Tier Suburbs Council in a study of strip center redevelopment.
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|Title Annotation:||sucessful management of department stores|
|Author:||Ammenheuser, Maura K.|
|Publication:||Nation's Cities Weekly|
|Date:||Nov 5, 2007|
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