By  on May 7, 2007

U.S. developers intent on domestic growth are expanding megamalls and seeking to revitalize neglected downtown parcels and neighborhoods.

Overseas it's a different story, as developers see a world with new markets ready to be tapped.

What could become the world's biggest center, the Dubai Mall, is to open in fall 2008 or spring 2009. The project is being built by the Emaar development company, based in Dubai, and will encompass about 10 million gross square feet, 3.8 million for retail, and the world's tallest building — more than 200 floors with an Armani Hotel at its base. It will rival in size the 4.2-million-square-foot Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., which plans to add 5.6 million square feet.

In Dubai, Galeries Lafayette has signed on as an anchor, and the Al-Tayer Group, one of the Middle East's leading retailers for licensed stores, will be a major tenant, operating several luxury fashion and jewelry stores, as well as less expensive brands such as Banana Republic and Gap.

"Many designer brands will be operating their largest stores in the Middle East at the Dubai Mall," said Khalid Al-Tayer, group general manager of business development for the Al-Tayer Group LLC. "We will be doing a Giorgio Armani world concept," as part of Al-Tayer's sprawl of retailing.

And luxury retailing also is coming to Athens. The city's first upscale center is being created by a developer called Lambda. The project will have 600,000 square feet with a 250,000-square-foot luxury department store, most likely a unit operated by the Attica department store, the largest in Greece.

Here are snapshots of other distinctive projects of varying size and scope.

TYSONS CORNER, MCCLEAN, VA.

The Macerich Co. wants to transform Tysons Corner Center, already the biggest mall in the Washington area, into the nation's largest mixed-used facility. The goal is to remake the suburban center with 2.2 million square feet of retail into "a metropolitan urban center" with a total of 5.7 million square feet, said Melanie Balfour Heywood, senior vice president of development for Macerich, based in Santa Monica, Calif.

The plan, Macerich's most ambitious project, is for 1,350 apartments, either condos or rentals; four office buildings with a total of 1.4 million square feet; a 300-room hotel; plazas; parks; an ice rink; bicycle paths, and an additional 200,000 square feet of retail. Heywood said the retail would focus on services, including upscale grocers, restaurants and gift shops, but also possibly fashion stores, though the center already is fully loaded with chains and name brands and does have a reputation as a launching pad for new concepts. In the past year, Tysons has introduced the first units of Cusp and Martin + Osa. The center is anchored by Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Macy's, L.L. Bean, a 16-screen movie theater and Barnes & Noble. Tysons Corner's 2006 sales per square foot were almost $700.Macerich is examining expansion of other assets, including the Biltmore Fashion Park in Scottsdale, Ariz., where office, hotel and residential development is being considered. "Our philosophy is to just add value to our existing centers, and the way we are doing that is evaluating each one and how best to position it for future growth," said Heywood.

The Tysons transformation, expected to happen in phases over the next 10 to 15 years, has been spurred by the planned extension of MetroRail from Falls Church, Va., to Tysons Corner by 2012, and the growth of northern Virginia, a gateway to Washington.

Heywood described the vision of Tysons as a "walkable, mixed-used community for living and working that encourages connectivity," or having just about everything a shopper needs in close proximity.

DEERFOOT MEADOWS, CALGARY, CANADA

Canada's first luxury center is planned in Calgary. Spurred by the booming oil industry, the huge Deerfoot Meadows mall is adding The Meadows Collection, a 500,000-square-foot center designed by architect Peter Marino. The leasing and marketing strategy will be developed by Marvin Traub, the former Bloomingdale's chairman and now president of Marvin Traub Associates.

"It will be quite distinct," said Ken Mariash, managing partner of Heritage Partners, developer of Deerfoot. "We're taking everything we've learned from Fifth Avenue, Newbury, Bloor — the fancy streets of the world — to create something that blends the historical with the future, and with a lot of convenience, so people can pull their Bentleys right up to the door. The sophisticated shopper is not very interested in these covered malls anymore. They try to do too much for too many people."

"Luxury tenants are looking for new opportunities," said Traub. "We have identified over 100 [specialty retailers] who could become tenants, from pure luxury to contemporary and bridge and home goods."

The mix will also include one or two larger stores, and among the possibilities is Holt Renfrew, Canada's premier luxury chain, which has a small store in downtown Calgary, about 20 minutes away. No leases have been signed.

The goal is to open The Meadows Collection by late 2008 or spring 2009. Deerfoot Meadows opened its first phase in 2005.Considering Marino is on the project, The Meadows Collection would have the feel of the Americana Manhasset shopping center, catering to the affluent north shore communities of Long Island, N.Y. The master plan for the Americana Manhasset was created by Marino.

The Meadows Collection will take a 25-acre parcel within the 360-acre, 2.5-million-square-foot project, which is currently tenanted by big boxes like Ikea and Best Buy.

LOS ANGELES' WEST SIDE

Not only big developers want to transform Los Angeles. Jim Rosenfield, president of J.S. Rosenfield & Co., which owns and manages retail properties on the west side of Los Angeles, is on a mission to restore the charm to venues that have seen better days.

He's begun remaking and re-leasing the Westwood Village area just west of Beverly Hills, and is revitalizing the Trancas Country Mart on Pacific Coast Highway in West Malibu. He's also remade the Brentwood Country Mart, a four-year project seeped in nostalgic Americana, small-town flavor and independent boutiques. He has a long-term ground lease with the owner and has brought in several retailers from around the world that are new to the area.

At Westwood Village, Rosenfield has his sights on about 1 million square feet of retail space, and he said he controls about 40 percent of it. He's involved in the formation of a business improvement district and has been meeting with property owners to discuss new landscaping — including sidewalks, grass, trees and awnings — and leasing to a higher grade of retailing. "Westwood has languished for the last 25 years," said Rosenfield, "but good things are starting to happen. It's about having stores that appeal to wealthy residents, not just being college-oriented."

The 30,000-square-foot Trancas Country Market has a Starbucks, a food market, a nursery and a hardware store. "It's kind of a strip center, somewhat nondescript, and deserves to be a lot nicer," Rosenfield said. There also are 20 acres of land and a lot of potential. He's seeking permits to build on the site, which could reflect what's he's accomplished at the Brentwood Country Mart, with its 30,000 square feet and 28 shops and restaurants. Jigsaw, based in London, opened its first store in America here. There's also Reddi Chick, for barbecue, and The City Bakery, in its first location outside New York."We've said 'no' to the usual suspects," Rosenfield said. "It proves in this day and age when people complain about the 'Gapping of America" that there are these great independent stores, with owners who love what they do and provide customer service."

GRAND AVENUE, LOS ANGELES

With the creation of Time Warner Center, The Related Cos. remade Manhattan's Columbus Circle. Related is again striving for high impact, this time in downtown Los Angeles, with its 3.6-million-square-foot Grand Avenue development.

"This would be L.A.'s first truly integrated mixed-used project," said Bill Witte, president of Related California, a division of The Related Cos., which is based in New York. "It will not be as vertical as Time Warner. But what it will share with Time Warner is the integration of various uses, where the whole ends up being greater than the sum of the parts. The residential, retail, restaurant and hotel components will feed off each other and reinforce each other."

The Grand Avenue development, which isn't officially named yet, is scheduled to start with demolition in December. It's the last major development parcel in the downtown Bunker Hill redevelopment area, and is to be constructed in three phases; the initial phase is expected to take about 42 months to complete. It will include food and book stores, an Equinox health club and restaurants. More traditional retail will follow, and a Mandarin Oriental hotel — like Equinox health, an element of the Time Warner center — will be included.

The project will be designed by architect Frank Gehry, and is across from the Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall.

"The other thing that makes this uniquely L.A. is the [outdoor] public space, unlike Time Warner, which is all interior," Witte said. "We will create a lot of public space to take advantage of the weather. All the restaurants will have outdoor patios and gardens, and a block away, we're redeveloping a 16-acre area into a new civic park. Right now, it's just a series of four blocks, and not very inviting." Compared with the Time Warner Center, Grand Avenue "esthetically, will be more horizontal than vertical and more open, but certainly some of the components will be similar."The total development, spread over 10 acres, will cost about $2 billion. Its final schematic design will be unveiled at the ICSC convention this month.

11 11 LINCOLN ROAD, MIAMI BEACH

For his $70 million 11 11 Lincoln Road project in Miami Beach, developer Robert Wennet wants to create "a cultural destination" and said he's seeking retailers that take merchandising a step further.

"They're not just merchandising goods,'' he said. "They're also curating them."

He's got some serious criteria for prospective tenants. "They must understand the importance of the concept store and integrating lifestyle and retailing,'' Wennet said. "It's not generic design. We want names and design that matter and are unique, and retailers that program their space for new ideas. People will be looking at the architecture and the design, not just shopping."

The 11 11 Lincoln Road project, expected to be completed in fall 2008, involves renovating and expanding an existing structure and building a new one to accommodate 50,000 square feet for 11 stores; 100,000 square feet of offices for MTV, Nickelodeon and other creative businesses such as advertising and graphic design firms; a rooftop restaurant with ocean views; a handful of residences with courtyards, and a multilevel parking lot he characterized as a "parking sculpture." The space will have concealed sprinklers and drains, and a 30-foot-high ceiling on the seventh level.

"It won't be a static environment,'' Wennet said. "The seventh floor can be an event space."

The concept is to create a setting where commerce mixes with culture and socializing, and retailers create merchandising laboratories with unique environments and visuals that break the mold. Herzog & de Meuron is the architectural firm on the project.

For the past 20 years, Wennet has focused on urban streets, and has purchased and renovated buildings in Manhattan's Meatpacking District; Norwalk, Conn.; Coral Gables, Fla., and Washington, typically focusing on cutting-edge or emerging neighborhoods. His 11 11 site is on the western end of Lincoln Road, a premier pedestrian promenade.

"We want people coming to this project...the way they come to a museum," Wennet said. "Everything from 11 11's architecture, tenants and programming is about curating an experience rich in culture."COSMOPOLITAN, LAS VEGAS

The Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino going up in the heart of The Strip — at Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue, next to the Bellagio — is scheduled to open in late 2009.

A major point of differentiation, according to the developer, lies in the retailing component. The plan is to offer more than 265,000 square feet of shopping and dining, with 40 boutiques from around the world rising three levels above the Strip. Other casinos have retail components that are set back from the Strip, but the Cosmopolitan's retailing will be right on the Strip and Harmon Avenue. It will be constructed with a facade of transparent glass with plenty of light.

Cost of the entire 4-million-square-foot project, which will include 3,000 rooms inside two 600-foot towers on top of a four-level, 100-foot tall podium, is estimated at $2.8 billion.

Asked how the project's retail mix would be different from all the other retail in Las Vegas, Audrey Oswell, chief operating officer of The Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino, said the retail shops would rise three levels above The Strip in an eclectic and unconventional mix and "satisfy a variety of tastes and pocketbooks." She also said many of the restaurants would offer outdoor seating and "incredible" views of Las Vegas.

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