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Published: Wednesday, 3/23/2005

New wing for mall to open in 6 weeks

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Even as construction crews pounded away, executives of Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin Park said yesterday they are on target to open a new wing to the mall on May 6.

During a sneak preview of the main corridor of the $117 million project, executives said the addition will have at least 26 new stores and restaurants in six weeks, including 15 new to the Toledo market, such as upscale household item stores Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn, crystal jewelry store Swarovski, and Journeys, which has funky shoes and apparel.

The project, begun in October, 2003, adds 240,000 square feet to the mall and includes not only an impressive corridor but a soaring fireplace, skylights, and upholstered furniture as well as a 700-seat food court.

Executives of the Toledo mall at Monroe Street and Talmadge Road showed off the wing yesterday to reporters, disclosing the first firm opening date.

Stan Eichelbaum, a Cincinnati retail consultant, said the stores for the wing are in keeping with what Westfield is trying to accomplish.

"They are looking for the art of lifestyle shopping, of making a place more shoppable, more interesting," said Mr. Eichelbaum, of Marketing Development Inc. in Cincinnati.

Often much of the construction in a retail project occurs in the last few weeks, he said, indicating the amount of work left before opening seems typical.

Westfield America Trust, a unit of an Australian company, owns Franklin Park and other U.S. malls.

The West Toledo mall will be 1.2 million square feet when finished, and include a theater complex as well as two already-built parking decks.

Some existing stores will shift into the new wing, which is on the south side of the center, facing Sylvania Avenue.

The current food court, for example, will be relocated to the new wing, shutting down for less than a week for the move.

Stores will open in the area of the existing food court, which will be redone this year, mall officials said. Among the new restaurants are US Bistro, New Orleans Creole, and Baja Bistro.

Once completed, there will be 40 retailers in the new wing. Overall, the mall will have 23 stores or restaurants new to the local market.

Some, however, won't arrive until later this year. Brookstone, for example, is a consumer products store that is to open in the fall, and it will be in the older mall space.

The corridor of stores in the expansion turns and ends at the wing's two largest stores: Dick's Sporting Goods and Borders Books & Music. Both stores will have outside entrances.

Overlooking the new wing will be a mezzanine, which won't have any stores but will be home to a 16-screen, 2,700-seat cinema, owned by National Amusements Inc.

Access will be from an escalator from the ground floor or from rooftop parking, officials said.

Westfield executives said efforts have been made in the new wing to mimic the design of the existing mall, while adding flourishes such as granite and marble in the tile floor.

Such touches have boosted the project's price tag by $4 million from the $113 million originally announced, said Kurt Pollex, the mall's marketing director.

"The advantage of being our own designer and construction company is that we are free to make adjustments on the fly," he said.

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at

mmclaughlin@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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