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Reviving A Dead Mall By Rebranding With An Ethnic Focus

In 2009 I paid a visit to my childhood mall that opened in 1974 — eight days before my seventh birthday. By 2009 it was dead — all four anchors were closed as were most of the smaller stores. The next year National Public Radio did a story on how the Federal Reserve of New York came to own one of Oklahoma’s largest indoor malls:

It also owned a loan to Crossroads Mall in Oklahoma City. Then, when the owners of the mall couldn’t make the payments, the Fed foreclosed. So now it owns the mall, which includes a Chick-fil-A and an AMC theater. (NPR)

The AMC Theater is in a separate building on an outlet — built years later.

A Crossroads Mall  entrance, August 2009
Crossroads Mall entrance, August 2009 was used (by permission) in the 2010 NPR story.

In March I returned with my husband. Why visit a dead mall again? New owners have rebranded the mall, attracting new customers and stores.  From two years ago:

The south Oklahoma City mall fell into the hands of the federal government in 2008, limped through the recession years with a handful of tenants while somehow managing to keep its doors open.

But Legaspi, who owns The Legaspi Co., a California firm known for turning ailing shopping malls into thriving, Hispanic centers, has a plan.

On Wednesday afternoon, he announced details of the project, including the mall’s new name: Plaza Mayor at the Crossroads, a name that translates to “the main square” at the crossroads. It includes space for a grocery store, nightclub and a rodeo arena seating 3,500 spectators.

Already, Legaspi has worked on a dozen ailing malls across the country. (NewsOK)

From the new owner’s About Me page:

The Legaspi Company is a full-service development/brokerage company for commercial/ investment real estate, particularly for retail projects.  We are recognized as an aggressive commercial real estate company, noted particularly for our ability to successfully identify and capitalize on untapped opportunities created by demographic changes and trends in the marketplace.  This reputation has led many investors, developers and retailers (please see accompanying client list) to seek our assistance in their expansion/development planning, site selection, and leasing/sales negotiation activities.  Municipalities and government entities have also recognized our ability to position, in many cases re-position, shopping districts in order to increase services to the community.

The foundation of our strength in various market areas is our niche marketing orientation: our recognition of the unique needs and marketing characteristics of each site on its own merits, and our willingness, as a matter of choice, to educate and work aggressively with investors, developers, retailers, and tenants in these areas, which in many cases were, till quite recently, considered marginal at best. (Legaspi Co)

We visited early on a Sunday morning, just as stores were starting to open.

Color was added to the entrances
Color was added to the entrances, a vinyl banner covers the outdated metal graphics
The former Dillard's, where I worked briefly in college, now has some color
The former Dillard’s at right, where I worked briefly in college, now has some color. Click image to see this lot filled with people during a 2014 festival.
The former Dillard's store was being
The former Dillard’s store would soon be ‘El Parian’

During our visit we didn’t know what El Parian would be, I’ve since learned:

El Parian will feature about 60, 12-foot by 12-foot incubator booths that will be ringed around an atrium.

Additional phases of construction will include salon and restaurant space, with the hope of eventually having booth space for as many as 300 small start-up businesses, he said. The second and third floors of the Dillard’s wing will be converted to office space, Ruiz said.

Tenants at the mall said they were hopeful that El Parian would draw more shoppers to Plaza Mayor and give existing businesses a boost. A trickle of new shops has continued to reopen in the mall since redevelopment plans with Hispanic mall developer The Legaspi Co. were unveiled in spring 2013. (NewsOK)

The El Parian is now open, so I have a reason to return. Another would be to visit later when places are open — especially restaurants.

One of several restaurants in the mall, this one was just about to open. Soccer was playing on the TV.
One of several restaurants in the mall, this one was just about to open for the day. Soccer was playing on the TV.
The center court once again hosts packed events
The center court once again hosts packed events, click the image above to see a photo from a 2014 event on their Facebook page

This video aired not long after the change to Plaza Mayor — it is wrong about the mall’s opening though — it opened in 1974 — not 1979.

Such a focus makes sense in Oklahoma City, in 2010 the population of Oklahoma City was 579,999 — with 17.2% being Hispanic or Latino (of any race) — up from 5% in 1990 (Wikipedia). By contrast, the City of St. Louis was only 3.5% Hispanic/Latino in 2010 (Wikipedia). The St. Louis region likely has a much lower percentage than the city.

Though this focus wouldn’t work for our dead/dying malls I bring this up because it shows how one developer has found a way to match vacant real estate with an often marginalized market. National brands are beginning to recognize the Hispanic/Latino market:

The 50 largest spending companies put $3.4 billion into Latino advertising in 2013, according to the most recent figures available from industry publication Advertising Age, which measured spending on Spanish-language ads on broadcast and cable networks and in Spanish language publications. Procter & Gamble Co. was the top spender with $334.8 million, followed by AT&T with $124.7 million. Target came in 28th, with $51.5 million. (LA Times)

Most real estate brokers & developers, blinded by their conventional wisdom, couldn’t see any use for this mall.

One of the new monument signs around the exterior
One of the new monument signs around the exterior

This is a good lesson on how the status quo establishment may not offer creative solutions — such reminders are a very good thing. I look forward to returning over the coming years to see Plaza Mayor continue to evolve.

— Steve Patterson


IKEA Will Be Posting Jobs Soon

April 14, 2015 Big Box, Featured, Retail 6 Comments

It has been a little over four months since IKEA officially announced they were opening a location in the St. Louis region — specifically in the City of St. Louis. The big blue & yellow box is now fully formed.

IKEA as seen on WB I-64
IKEA as seen on WB I-64, not really visible EB
As seen from Vandeventer Ave
As seen from Vandeventer Ave

The St. Louis IKEA is supposed to open this Fall. In August we’re planning one last visit to the IKEA in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook on our drive back from a weekend in Chicago. When the store opens here we’re planning to get a new king-sized mattress & platform bed.

If you’ve never shopped at an IKEA before I recommend at least four hours to see it in full. Since I first walked into an IKEA in August 1990 I’ve wondered what it would be like to live close to a store. The visits to the seven locations I’ve been to involved either filling my vehicle or getting just a little something to fir in my carryon bag. For the first time I’ll be able to take public transit to an IKEA, maybe just for lunch and to browse their creative displays.

IKEA St. Louis is already hiring some managerial positions, they’ll be hiring for additional positions soon. If you’re interested, you can sign up to be notified.

Is it just me or have existing furniture stores increased their TV advertising?

— Steve Patterson


Coming To Ballpark Village In Early 2017: 24/7 Neighborhood Market by Walmart

Walmart will soon be expanding in the St. Louis region with the addition of its smaller format Neighborhood Market stores:

Currently, the Neighborhood Markets are as large as 45,000 square feet. With the new strategy, they will range from 15,000 to 45,000 square feet in size. The company intends to continue testing with the “Wal-Mart On Campus” and “Wal-Mart To Go” models, and believes that the expansion of the Neighborhood Market banner will not hamper the growth of the new stores, which are still in the testing phase as of now. (Goodbye Wal-Mart Express Stores, Hello Neighborhood Markets!)

By offering grocery basics, pharmacy, and other essentials these stores compete with Walgreens/CVS, Target, etc.

Monument sign at a typical Neighborhood Market.

From a Walmart press release:

In February 2014, Walmart U.S. increased its original fiscal 2015 projected capital investment by $600 million to a range of $6.4 to $6.9 billion due to an acceleration of approximately 150 small format openings. However, as a result of the timing of certain planned small format openings, Walmart U.S. now expects to open approximately 240 small format units in fiscal 2015, and carry over approximately 20 units into fiscal 2016. 

The company also indicated that during the testing of its Walmart Express format, the analysis showed customers rely on these stores for a variety of reasons, including grocery fill-in trips, last-minute dinner plans and picking up prescriptions. These patterns closely align with how customers also shop the Neighborhood Market format, which has become a recognizable brand that customers identify as a high quality, local grocery store. Therefore, the company will rebrand Walmart Express as Neighborhood Market and will utilize this brand for all small format stores, regardless of square footage. 

“We know that our supercenters are an important format for the stock-up trip, but we want to be thoughtful about our investment, ensuring that we align the space to evolving customer needs,” said Walmart U.S. President and CEO Greg Foran.  “To do this, we will moderate supercenter growth in fiscal 2016.  Our investment in Neighborhood Markets will go forward because they continue to show strong results across the box and they provide our customers with convenient access to grocery, pharmacy services, and other quick-trip needs.”  

Fiscal year 2016 capital investments are projected to range between $6.1 and $6.6 billion.  The forecast includes new stores, remodels, conversions, relocations, logistics, e-commerce and technology infrastructure, and reflects the additions of new units that will expand Walmart U.S.’s retail space by approximately 15 to 16 million net retail square feet. The company expects to open between 60 and 70 supercenters and 200 to 220 Neighborhood Markets.  (Walmart)

One location in our region will be at the NW corner of Ballpark Village — 8th & Walnut.

The NW corner is the lower right
The NW corner is the lower left right

Laclede Gas will soon be moving its headquarters into the former General American building across the street.

“We’ve watched the success of Schnucks’ Culinaria store and decided we can offer more items at lower prices”, said Neighborhood Market regional manager Gregory Pope.  

The Neighborhood Market by Walmart will occupy the ground floor of a new multi-level parking garage structure.

— Steve Patterson



Downtown’s Papa John’s Pizza To Reopen In Different Parking Garage

After Papa John’s Founder & CEO John Schnatter commented on the Affordable Care Act during the 2012 presidential campaign I stopped patronizing the downtown location — then located just 4 blocks East. My taste buds, waistline, and wallet were grateful.

Pape John's was located at Tucker & Pine until July when it closed for repairs to this parking garage.
Pape John’s was located at Tucker & Pine until July when it closed for repairs to this parking garage.
Workers building out the interior of the new Papa John's 2 blocks South in the Park Pacific garage.
Workers building out the interior of the new Papa John’s 2 blocks South in the Park Pacific garage.

It will be nice seeing a business in these storefronts facing Tucker, the spots facing Pine are occupied. More space remains available facing Tucker & Olive.

Renovation work at the garage where Papa John’s had been located (see Parking Garage Undergoing Time-Consuming Multi-Million Dollar Restoration; Businesses Closed, Jobs Lost) has slowed to be almost nonexistent. Yesterday the security guard told me what I already suspected — there was far more damage than originally thought. The owner isn’t sure how much more they want to put into it but a couple of guys are still around working — but nothing like the crew when the work first started.

How long can the owner keep a garage that’s producing zero income?

— Steve Patterson


The Proposed QuikTrip Doesn’t Work In An Urban City

Chouteau Ave, an East-West roadway, was once like most St. Louis streets — lined with urban buildings on both sides.

Chouteau West of Jefferson in 1908, click image to see full size source
Chouteau West of Jefferson in 1908, click image to see full size source
Vin de Set and PW Pizza are popular destinations, causing people to cross Chouteau often. April 2012
Vin de Set and PW Pizza, right, are popular destinations in an urban building — a former brewery. April 2012 photo
In the of Chouteau where the new QuikTrip is proposed you can see urban buildings on both sides of the street. When I was in real estate I represented the owner inn the purchase of the 3-story building on the left.
In the 26xx block of Chouteau, where the new QuikTrip is proposed, you can see urban buildings on both sides of the street. When I was in real estate I represented the owner inn the purchase of the 3-story building on the left. The QT would be to the East of the building on the right. May 2013 photo

The prevailing pattern on both Chouteau & Jefferson is urban — buildings built up to the property line. Sure, more holes exist now than 100 or even 50 years ago — but that’s no reason for the entire street to become the image of a suburban arterial. Even suburbs now are trying to urbanize their unsustainable development patterns.

Urban buildings in the 26xx block of Chouteau being razed, July 2011
Urban buildings in the 26xx block of Chouteau being razed, July 2011
The two buildings remaining to be razed aren't worthy of the National Register of Historic Places, but they do date from the late 19th century.
The two buildings remaining to be razed aren’t worthy of the National Register of Historic Places, but they do date from the late 19th century. April 2012

Chouteau is the southern boundary of my neighborhood of 7+ years: Downtown West. In April 2012 I wrote about a need to study Chouteau Ave, here are a couple of quotes from Chouteau Needs To Go On A Diet:

Chouteau Ave has four travel lanes plus generous parking lanes, it’s too wide. I couldn’t find the curb-to-curb width but the public right-of-way (PROW) is a massive 80 feet, encompassing the road and adjacent sidewalks.

Recent road diet projects on Grand and Manchester had the number of travel lanes reduced from four to two. I don’t think that’s necessary or even a good idea on Chouteau. It’s not lined with shops, although some do still exist in places. No need to make Chouteau into a low volume shopping street but there is no reason it’s can’t accommodate the current volume of vehicular traffic AND be less hostile to pedestrians.  This takes a corridor study.

Chouteau Ave extends east to the river and west until it becomes Manchester as it crosses Vandeventer, 3.4 miles long.  The far east end isn’t as wide and is located in what will become Chouteau’s Landing. A corridor study should focus on the 3 mile stretch from S. 4th on the east to Vandeventer Ave on the west.


A corridor study of the 3 mile length of Chouteau Ave would identify key points where crosswalks are needed. Those not at intersections, like Mississippi Ave, would have a yellow caution light flashing overhead. In the 6/10th of mile between Truman Parkway and Jefferson Ave I’d suggest two pedestrian crossing points: Mississippi Ave and 22nd Street, this would equally space them 2/10th of a mile apart. Too far apart for a commercial district but adequate for this area.

My main focus was on improving pedestrian amenities, but a corridor study would also look at building form. From end to end urban buildings remain — the key to having the corridor be more urban 20-25 years from now is to retain existing urban buildings or replace them with new buildings that are at least as urban. At the time Kacie Starr Triplett had been reelected to a new term a year before. After Triplett resigned I suggested to the newly-electred Ald Christine Ingrassia that Chouteau needs to be studied — she said it wasn’t a priority.

Her priority, it appears, is playing the same games aldermen have played for decades: pretend to be pro-city while introducing anti-city legislation. When called on it crying “I thought we were friends…” You see, they want to be friends so you won’t publicly oppose their bad public policy. I encountered this a decade ago when Jennifer Florida supported a new McDonald’s on Grand (McDonald’s eventually gave up, a multi-story urban building now occupies the site). At that time I referred to guidelines in other cities pushing for more urban fast-food buildings. So I found it funny when Ald Ingrassia told me “As an aside I’m looking at introducing a bill requiring an urban design for gas stations in the city (similar to one in Ottawa – see attached info sheet).”

Ok, so you work for a year on a gas station opposed by many — that you yourself say “Needs a lot of work” — then after getting pushback to the legislation sent to the mayor for signature you ask for urban help and say you plan to require that future gas stations be urban — just not this one. Sorry, that’s not how a smart city does business. A smart city, like Ottawa, develops guidelines to ensure new construction contributes to the environment they seek.

Yes, she talked with residents immediately to the West & South — they wanted police for security and a ban on hard liquor sales. This is the type of feedback when you talk to neighbors, the bigger planning issues never come up or if they do the project is presented as basically a done deal — just help make it better.  Here, we’ll allow you to rearrange the Titanic’s deck chairs…

The proposed QuikTrip (see site plan) has no business being built anywhere in the City of St. Louis — especially not at Jefferson & Chouteau. If built, how long before it’s on QuikTrip’s list of surplus properties? Probably 20 years. They can quickly depreciate their real estate then try to do a sale leaseback to maximize profits on their $11 billion plus in annual revenues.

QuikTrip can afford to develop an urban prototype and we have no incentives to allow them to build the planned location. It’s not like we must drive out to the suburbs to purchase a hot dog, chips, soda, or fuel. They want to build here because they can generate a profit in the location. Fine — let them build & profit — but let’s also not reduce the urban form on Chouteau or Jefferson in the process.

In the last Sunday Poll nearly 70% of the readers wanted an urban form or outright rejection:

Q: QuikTrip wants to build a typical QT at Jefferson & Chouteau, St. Louis should:

  1. Allow it, but require an urban form w/building at the primary corner 23 [38.98%]
  2. Deny it completely 18 [30.51%]
  3. Let them build what they want 14 [23.73%]
  4. Allow it, but require a few minor changes 4 [6.78%]
  5. Unsure/No Opinion 0 [0%]

Can we please stop electing faux progressives?

— Steve Patterson