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Published: Sunday, 7/31/2005

Discount retail expected at Southwyck

Once-thriving stores present blank faces along the nearly empty corridors of the struggling south Toledo shopping center. Once-thriving stores present blank faces along the nearly empty corridors of the struggling south Toledo shopping center.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

Trapped in a death spiral for four years, Southwyck Shopping Center finally got good news last week with an announcement that the 33-year-old mall is to be redeveloped into an open-air lifestyle center with retail, offices, and housing.

What type of stores is uncertain.

The developer, Larry Dillin, plans to aim high, but retail experts predict the retail will be a lot less upscale than that at Mr. Dillin s Town Center at Levis Commons in Perrysburg.

We re looking in a broad spectrum from department stores to specialty retailers, Mr. Dillin said, noting that a target list was drawn up from his work on Levis Commons.

What is most likely, say national retail expert and local experts, is an open-air center anchored by Dillard s department store or a grocery store and accompanied by discounters or stores geared to the southwest Toledo neighborhood, like a hardware store, clothing stores, and restaurants.

Stan Eichelbaum, a shopping mall consultant from Cincinnati, said that, although the Southwyck area has high population density, the center lacks strong road visibility.

The 59-acre site along Reynolds Road and Glendale Avenue sits back from the roads, but Mr. Dillin said he expects stores to be built closer to the roads.

Also, most upscale retailers considering Toledo have chosen Levis Commons or Westfield Franklin Park mall, Mr. Eichelbaum said.

Mr. Dillin probably is studying what level of quality stores he can afford to build at Southwyck, said Dave Long, a commercial real estate agent with CB Richard Ellis/Reichle Klein in Maumee. The quality level will depend on how much financing and investment the developer can attract.

The Southwyck area has more people near it than does Levis Commons, but the latter has more households with incomes of $100,000 or more. At Southwyck, the average household income is about $70,000, Mr. Long said.

His firm, he said, previously analyzed what might work in the Southwyck area, and it was something less than a Franklin Park mall mix.

There are some very strong discount retailers that have not yet entered the Toledo market that would look very favorably at Southwyck, he explained.

An open-air design like that of Levis Commons is the goal for the rejuvenation of Southwyck. An open-air design like that of Levis Commons is the goal for the rejuvenation of Southwyck.

Steve & Barry s University Sportswear, which sells clothing at a discount, and Burlington Coat Factory would succeed at Southwyck, as would a Sears or J.C. Penney alongside Dillard s, Mr. Long said.

Pete Shawaker, a partner at Michael Realty Co. in Toledo, said many variables make it difficult to say what would work at Southwyck, but there is a stronger likelihood it will be a neighborhood or discounter center.

If Dillard s leaves, which the chain has said it might, Southwyck could be anchored by a supermarket, he said.

What may hamper Mr. Dillin is the amount of retail nearby, from stores along Airport Highway, to Levis Commons, which plans a second phase, to the Shops at Fallen Timbers, a lifestyle center planned but not yet built by General Growth Properties Inc.

Unlike the former North Towne Square mall, Mr. Shawaker said, Southwyck does have a future. But discount and neighborhood retail would be easier to accomplish than upscale.

Mr. Dillin has a deal with Southwyck s owners to devise a redevelopment plan and has assembled a six-person team from his Dillin Cos., of Perrysburg, to draft it.

With Hill Partners Inc., of Charlotte, N.C., he built and opened Levis Commons off State Rte. 25 near the I-475/U.S. 23 interchange last year.

How many stores will be in the Southwyck project or what they might be has not been determined.

Mr. Dillin said he hasn t even set a timetable for completing the overhaul plan, which is likely to include tearing down part of the long-struggling mall and erecting offices and some housing.

Mr. Eichelbaum said there s a strong sign that Southwyck will be redeveloped.

At Crestview Hills, Ky., near Cincinnati, there is a mall much like Southwyck.

It and Southwyck are owned by Dillard s and Kansas City, Kan., mall operator Sherman Dreiseszun.

Crestview Hills Mall, which struggled for 20 years, is being redeveloped into a lifestyle center. It is about 75 percent complete and looks very promising, Mr. Eichelbaum said.

It s a big-box and lifestyle combo, he said. Sherman [Dreiseszun] has been accused of not updating his centers, but there he teamed with another developer to revive Crestview Hills. So there s a precedent that it can be done.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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