THE MALL MECCA
Byline: Kim-Van Dang
LAS VEGAS — The retail boom continues here with no end in sight. With all existing shopping centers at or close to 100 percent capacity, a new wave of construction is under way.
The jackhammering can already be heard at The Forum Shops at Caesars — one of the most successful retail complexes in the country with annual sales of over $1,000 per square foot, more than three times the national average.
The amusement park-like center, owned and operated by Melvin Simon & Associates, Inc. of Indianapolis, opened in May 1992 with 70 stores on 240,000 square feet of gross leasable area. Although the multi-million-dollar expansion has yet to be formally announced, marketing director Maureen Taylor Crampton said that by fall 1996, the center will feature 35 more stores on 120,000 additional square feet.
Building on the phenomenal success of its Warner Bros. store, Forum brass are planning to unveil The Disney Store, featuring interactive toys, in May. Celebrated chef Wolfgang Puck, who already runs a Spago restaurant there and an eponymous cafe at MGM Grand down The Strip, is looking to open a second eatery at The Forum Shops, and Estée Lauder is set to open its first store there, featuring cosmetics, skin care products, fragrances and ready-to-wear.
One impetus for growth, Crampton said, is the sheer number of visitors to the center. “We forecasted 10 million people a year and now we’re close to double our projections.” She added that the mix is 80 percent tourists and 20 percent local residents.
Fashion Show — the five-anchor mall next door — is not letting Caesars have all the fun. It completed a $10 million renovation project in November 1993 that increased its size by 60,000 square feet.
Management then aggressively pursued better retailers including Ann Taylor, which opened a 9,000-square-foot store there last November. Talbots, First Issue — a Liz Claiborne Co. — I.B. Diffusion, and The Icing are some other new tenants.
This April, two mall-front restaurants are set to open: Sfuzzi, an Italian bistro, and Dive, a Steven Spielberg and Steve Wynn joint venture serving fancy submarine sandwiches. General manager William Rose said that sales at Fashion Show are 17 percent ahead of a year ago with some stores posting annual increases of 40 percent. To capitalize on such performance, marketing director Julie Lee said that mall operator Hahn Corp. is exploring the idea of expanding into the center’s 17-acre parking lot.
In order to compete with the novelty and glitz of Strip retailing, The Boulevard and The Meadows malls, several miles away, are casting themselves as community centers that cater to family needs.
Still, in a state where hyperbolic claims are considered virtues, mall executives are quick to make them. “We are the first fully enclosed, climate controlled mall in Nevada,” said Sue Brandt, marketing director for The Boulevard, adding that a $60 million expansion in 1992 made it the largest mall in the state at 1.25 million square feet in gross leas-able area.
Nobody here is resting on his or her laurels, however. Fierce competition is just around the corner.
At 94-percent leased, The Meadows Mall (Las Vegas is Spanish for “the meadows”) is being updated with a full-interior renovation that started last October. Brick-like columns throughout will be rewrapped in pastel “layers” that recall the mall’s new double-M logo. New ramps and railings will be put in place. And upholstered furniture will replace wooden benches. By June, each of its five “court” areas will boast new “personalities” or themes, according to marketing manager Heather McCombs.
While adding talking Roman statues la The Forum Shops is not in its renovation plans, The Meadows does boast a popular carousel dubbed The Menagerie. Local children love riding it so much that mall executives started a carousel kids club complete with special events like breakfast with Santa Claus, quarterly newsletters and birthday cards for members.
The 100-percent occupied Boulevard mall is not in the throes of renovation but it, too, is hammering away at the theme of community service. Sue Brandt is full of stories about the time a local radio station held a marathon broadcast at the mall to raise money for a children’s cancer hospital, or the time management took up a collection for the family of a rodeo cowboy who had died.
Last September, The Boulevard held Hispanic Awareness Week on site and garnered not only the International Council of Shopping Centers’ “Get Centered” community service award as a result, but a lot of new patrons as well. Executives had tied the awareness week in with Mexican Independence Day — a big holiday for local Hispanics.
In addition to full-price malls, Las Vegas now has two outlet malls on the southwest edge of the city: Belz Factory Outlet World and Las Vegas Factory Stores of America. The former features shops including Nike, G.H. Bass Apparel Store, Adolfo II, Levi’s and a host of children’s apparel outlets. The latter boasts shops including I.B. Diffusion, Vanity Fair, Jantzen, Izod, Arrow Shirts and Healthtex for Children.
One of the newest players on the Las Vegas area retail scene is Forest City, a Cleveland, Ohio, real estate developer that held ground-breaking ceremonies last month for what will eventually be a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center in the city of Henderson, a mere eight miles away.
Called The Galleria At Sunset, the two-level enclosed mall’s first phase — 900,000 square feet pegged for completion by March 1996 — is already 70 percent leased, according to regional leasing director Gail Enderwood. A second phase — slated for a fall 1998 opening — will feature another 100,000 square feet of specialty stores and a department store at up to 200,000 square feet. A 160,000-square-foot department store pad and out-parcels for banks and restaurants round out the giant project.
Already on board is Dillard’s, which will open its largest Nevada unit there at 208,000 square feet. Robinsons May is committed to 180,000 square feet. J.C. Penny has signed up for 126,000 square feet, and Mervyn’s will take 83,000 square feet. Along with these anchors, the first phase will comprise 300,000 square feet of smaller shops including The Gap, Gap Kids-Baby Gap, Compagnie Internationale Express, The Limited, Victoria’s Secret, Charlotte Russe and Eddie Bauer.
The Galleria should give Las Vegas retailers pause for two reasons.Firstly, it is situated in an 8,400-acre master-plan community called Green Valley, one of Clark County’s fastest growing and most affluent pockets. About 276,075 people already live within a 10-minute drive of the site. That figure is expected to increase by at least 20,000 within the next two years and reach 386,860 at total build-out. The average household income for the area is $46,674 — about $11,000 above the county’s average.
Secondly, the mega-mall will be right off Interstate 515 (formerly known as U.S. Highway 95), the route most visitors from Laughlin, Nev., and Phoenix take north to Las Vegas.
Forest City is also presently in a joint venture with Makena Development Corp. to build a retail center called The Showcase on The Strip in front of MGM Grand — the world’s largest hotel and casino, complete with a Disneyland-style theme park.Expected to open in December, the glass-front Showcase will house 271,000 square feet of leasable space. Special features will include a Coca-Cola marketing facility with a 108-foot Coke bottle-shaped glass elevator tower, a 40,000-square-foot multi-screen United Artists Theatres complex and room for 21 specialty shops.
What’s next? Two more retail projects: Summa Corp. is developing a parcel in its 22,000-acre Summerlin master-plan community, and in the Peccole Ranch area, developer Don E. Shriver of Newport Beach, Calif., is handling another parcel.
Despite all the construction dust, Boulevard mall’s general manager Robert Touma doesn’t bat an eye.”Believe it or not,” he said, “There is room for more retailers in this town.”