Press

May 04 , 2007

1-20 area transforming into shopaholic heaven

1-20 area transforming into shopaholic heaven

Open-air 'lifestyle center' slated to have more than 110 stores by time it's complete
May 4, 2007 - by Andrea Jares | Star-Telegram. That big field at Matlock Road and Interstate 20 is now home to' one of the industry's hottest shopping-center concepts.
With a wave of recent openings, Arlington Highlands now sports 30 stores at its "lifestyle center," an open-air design. that combines big-box retailers with smaller merchants and encourages shoppers to walk from store to store. By the time it is completed, the center is expected to have more than 110 stores with more than 800,000 square feet of space, according to The Retail Connection, the center's developer. This includes Arlington Highlands East, which will break ground this year.
On Saturday, organizers will stop to celebrate with a grand-opening party from 1 to 9 p.m. The day includes fireworks, samples from local restaurants and a lineup of bands that includes KC and the Sunshine Band.
The Highlands took less than two years to build, but it's been years in the making.
'Complementary' to The Parks
Retailers had been looking for locations in south Arlington, said Daniel Fuller, vice president of the retail development division of The Retail Connection. Besides the obvious central location, the area has benefited from strong housing growth in Arlington, Mansfield and Grand Prairie.
The 635,000 square feet of shopping space at the Highlands is right next to The Parks at Arlington mall, which has been a strong performer for years.
"The Parks at Arlington mall is only outperformed by Galleria Mall and NorthPark Mall in Dallas," said Steven Lieberman, chief executive of The Retail Connection, citing sales. "So you're talking about an exceptional shopping environment, and the demand was superb."
Both centers say the Highlands will make south Arlington a better draw for shoppers.
"It's complementary," Fuller said. "This project strengthens the super-regionality. South Arlington is one of the densest and most successful retail areas in the Southwest."
Cindy Thompson, marketing manager at The Parks, said the Highlands has brought its own mix of tenants. She noted that there is very little duplication among tenants.
"It's a different type of retail," she said.
Lieberman said many retailers would have gone to the mall if not for the Highlands, but many others would have stayed out of south Arlington.
Patrice Duker, spokeswoman for the International  Council of Shopping Centers, the closeness may provide some advantages for both centers.
"They may get additional  crossover shopping," she said.  "It's like going to a shopping district."
Finding tenants
Fuller said that, after his company determined that a lifestyle center would work in south Arlington, it went after key tenants - such as Orvis, Studio Movie Grill, White House/Black Market, Borders and P.E Chang's - that would get retailers' attention. The retailers who got on board early helped design the center and attract other stores.. ' ,
"It's with this project where you had enough size to be able to cluster together enough of the specialty highend tenants, restaurants and retailers," Fuller said. "It's pretty special."
The center has signed leases on 85 percent of its existing space and letters of intent to lease an additional 5 percent.
The latest trend
The Highlands combines the architecture of an old Texas courthouse square with a string of well-known, big-box stores. The lifestyle center design encourages strolling and spending the day, but store front parking makes quick stops possible.
Lifestyle centers have been around for a long time but have really taken off in the past decade, Duker said. The trade group counts 155 lifestyle centers that have opened across the country since 1923. Of those, 94 have opened since 2000. Local examples include Southlake Town Square, University Park Village in Fort Worth and Lincoln Square in north Arlington.
Duker said large developers are moving away from the purely enclosed malls of the 1970s, '80s and '90s. Of the  largest malls built last year,  only one was completely enclosed  while the other six had  at least part of the center with  an open-air component, she said. said.
Fuller said lifestyle centers are the way retail is headed.
"They allow for better dining opportunities that kind of relate to the outdoors," Fuller said. "Just the experience with the park and the landscaping,  a different experience than in an enclosed mall - one I think shoppers and retailers are responding to in a  big way," Fuller said.
Not for everyone
Orvis, one of the new stores at the Highlands, puts its stores in a variety of shopping centers, said James Hathaway, spokesman for the Vermont based company. But lifestyle centers work particularly well for the outdoor clothing and fly-fishing outfitter, he said. Orvis looks for destination-type centers, which fit in well with its elaborate stores, he said.
Because of the destination-worthy tenant lineup, these types of shopping centers only fit into a few locations, Lieberman said. To support a lifestyle center, a community needs highway access, a large population, a strong economic base and retailer interest.
The next phase of the project is the remaining 20 acres, to be called Arlington Highlands East. Lieberman and Fuller declined to say what is planned for that site, except to say it won't be an Ikea home-furnishings store, as had been rumored.