A Texas developer said he plans to open a large outlet mall at 53rd North and I-135 in about two years.
The Woodmont Co., based in Fort Worth, expects to break ground on a 300,000-square-foot outlet center on the northwest corner of the intersection in about 12 to 15 months. The shopping center will sit on 35 acres of the former Echo Hills Golf Course.
It will have 80 to 100 retailers in eight buildings in a closely-packed grid with storefronts facing inward, a configuration called a “racetrack design.”
It’s too early to have any tenants signed, but Woodmont chairman Stephen Coslik said that’s a normal part of the process.
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“We wouldn’t have announced it if we didn’t think it was a viable project,” Coslik said.
The company builds, manages and brokers shopping centers, regional malls and outlet malls across the country. It presently manages more than 30 properties, about half in Texas and the rest spread across the country.
It remodeled Wichita’s Eastgate Plaza Shopping Center in 1991, its first major renovation, in which it brought in many of the current tenants, and then managed it for years.
In late July, Woodmont got approval from the Park City Council for industrial revenue bonds to be exempted from sales tax during the construction. The development is expected to cost $60 million to $70 million.
The former Echo Hills site has a particular appeal for an outlet mall, Coslik said. The mall will pull from a region of 100 miles around, which has a population of 1 million, he said, so it has to be on a major highway, making it easy to get to.
And some of the potential tenants are major retailers who have full-price stores in Wichita, but also want to have value-priced stores — but want them far from their full-price locations at Towne East Square, Towne West Square and Bradley Fair, Coslik said.
“The retailers like physical separation between the regional malls and the outlet mall.” Coslik said. “If you look at the east- and west-side malls and draw a line, they are about 11 to 13 miles from the malls. There’s also a specialty center, Bradley Fair, and they needed to have some separation from that as well.
“In addition, they want to be on an interstate. This is on an interstate.”
Karen Fluharty, partner for Strategy and Style Marketing Group, based in Montville, N.J., which is working with Woodmont, said putting an outlet mall in Wichita made sense because it sits in the middle of a large area without one. The nearest such malls are in Kansas City and Oklahoma City.
Coslik said that he understands that the outlet mall that opened in Newton in 1996 struggled for years before becoming more of a locally oriented shopping center. The Newton mall was a long strip center built around a parking lot, rather than the racetrack design, and he said the owners didn’t understand the need for constant marketing and promotion.
“Outlets require ongoing promotions and ongoing advertising and a strong social media presence,” he said. “Outlets just don’t get built and then run themselves.”
Fluharty said there is still a place for outlet malls in the online shopping era.
“People still want to touch, feel and try on items,” she said. “And shopping can be a very social experience … shopping centers are not going away, they’re evolving.”
The deal’s broker and original landowner, Mike Loveland of J.P. Weigand & Sons, retains ownership of a number of outparcels that will be developed as restaurants and other stand-alone businesses. He also retains acreage directly west of the outlet mall for apartments.
Park City manager Jack Whitson said the mall would nearly double the city’s property tax revenue, but even better, it could also trigger more development on the city’s north side.
“I think it would be great for the north end,” he said, “and hopefully a start for the development of the north end.”