Saturday, August 12, 2000

Outlet store called 'turning point' for center

By Lisa Biank Fasig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        High-end retail is coming back to Forest Fair Mall, but in a form that might be more attainable to the redeveloping center's mixed-income market.

[photo] A construction team removes ductwork in what will become part of the 30,000-square-foot Saks Off Fifth outlet store, to be operated by Saks Fifth Avenue at Forest Fair Mall.
(Dick Swaim photo)
| ZOOM |
        Forest Fair Mall confirmed Friday it has signed Saks Off Fifth, the outlet store operated by upscale retailer Saks Fifth Avenue. The store, to be located between the developing Bass Pro Shops and Burlington Coat Factory, is expected to open in March.

        “This is the turning point,” said James Goldsmith, president of the mall's owner, Gator Investments. “People are thinking of it as a bad mall, but it never was for us.”

        The signing of Saks Off Fifth marks an important step in the revitalization of Forest Fair because it represents the center's first outlet store and could lay the path for others. Forest Fair had suffered financial problems since soon after it opened as an upscale mall in 1989 and lost tenants and shoppers in the following years. Miami-based Gator bought the mall in 1996 with a plan to trans form it into a value center supplemented with new-to-the-area merchants.

        “We are close to making two other 25,000-plus (square foot) deals,” Mr. Goldsmith said. “Saks-Off-Fifth types of deals.”

        Jennifer Mann, spokeswoman for Saks, said the store is the second in Ohio — another operates in the northeast Ohio town of Aurora.

        In the past year, Forest Fair has signed several anchor-sized tenants, including the outdoorsman store Bass Pro Shops, Burlington Coat Factory and Media Play. These stores will open in November, completing Phase I of the mall's conversion.

        In September, Phase II will begin with construction of a two-story Showcase Cinema and more outlet stores. The food court will cover two stories, and the center court of the mall will be reduced as storefronts are expanded.

        Shopper Pat Scriveri of Wyoming was at first pessimistic about a Saks Off Fifth, but she warmed to the idea. “The more I think about the outlet idea ... the potential of Forest Fair could be possibly great.”

        The announcement confirms speculation about the off-price merchant that surfaced last month after the Forest Park city manager's office filed a memorandum about the store.

        The single-story store will cover roughly 30,000 square feet, with about half of it being added outside the mall. Demolition for the expansion has begun.

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