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Published: Friday, 1/10/2003

Franklin Park owner a Southwyck buyer?

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

A top executive of the owners of Toledo's Westfield Shoppingtown at Franklin Park declined yesterday to verify reports the company wants to buy Southwyck Shopping Center in south Toledo, but hinted that it could be in the works.

Jim Farrell, executive vice president of development for Westfield America Cos. of Los Angeles, told The Blade that the industry buzz about a Southwyck purchase was speculative.

But he said it is not uncommon for his firm to acquire multiple malls in the same area and he noted that Westfield is in constant contact with its tenants, including Dillard's department store. Dillard's has a store in the Franklin Park mall and in Southwyck, of which it has an ownership stake of just under 50 percent.

The principal owner of Southwyck, Sherman Dreiseszun, of Kansas City, Mo., was unavailable for comment yesterday.Wes Cherry, vice president of real estate for Little Rock-based Dillard's, told The Blade the retailer had no comment about persistent reports in the retail and real estate industries that Westfield might be trying to purchase Southwyck.

Attempts have been made in the past to consolidate Franklin Park and Southwyck.

Mr. Dreiseszun was approached by Franklin Park's former owners, the Rouse Co., about seven years ago and asked if he would sell Southwyck, said Kevin Lent, who managed Franklin Park when it was owned by Rouse. But Mr. Dreiseszun declined and no further discussions took place, Mr. Lent said.

Mr. Farrell, who is overseeing a $70 million redevelopment of Franklin Park that would include a new anchor, new retail, an expansion of Dillard's, and the addition of two parking structures, refused yesterday to say whether Westfield had contacted Mr. Dreiseszun.

But he said that Westfield, the U.S. unit of an Australian company which owns more than 60 malls in 14 states, would not be opposed to owning Southwyck. The company has found it can achieve economies of scale with advertising and retail services by owning more than one mall in a market, he explained.

``The idea is called `clustering' and it's worked quite well for us,'' Mr. Farrell said. The company has achieved greater customer awareness for its Westfield Shoppingtown name through the trend.

It has acquired six shopping malls in the St. Louis area, four in the Chicago area, and six in the San Diego area. Every one of the malls bears the name Westfield Shoppingtown, Mr. Farrell said.

The co-branding concept is fairly new to the shopping mall industry. The only other mall operator to try the concept with success is Simon Property Group of Indianapolis. Until recently, Simon owned North Towne Square and Woodville Mall in the Toledo area, but its co-branding efforts had limited success.

Westfield obtained Franklin Park in a blockbuster deal announced a year ago in which it acquired 35 malls nationwide. The Franklin Park ownership transferred in May.



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