By Sue Kiesewetter
FAIRFIELD - Picture large, inflatable, glowing fish swimming overhead as you eat. Or cows roaming while you shop.
Those are just a few of the surprises in store when the former Forest Fair Mall reopens Aug. 19 as Cincinnati Mills.
Members of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce got a peek at the makeover Wednesday when Cincinnati Mills representatives spoke at a chamber luncheon.
Additional information will come over the next three weeks when the company plans an announcement of new stores and begins a print, radio, television, direct-mail and billboard campaign focusing on the mall's three-week grand opening.
"There's just enough quirkiness and out-of-the ordinary that makes people want to come back," said Steve Beatty, director of marketing.
The 15-year-old, 1.8-million-square-foot mall that sits on 96 acres straddling the Fairfield-Forest Park border is undergoing a makeover begun after the Arlington, Va.-based Mills Corp. bought it two years ago for $70 million. The new owners have spent another $70 million for renovations.
Mills was attracted to the site because of Cincinnati's strong retail market - the 25th largest in the country, said Jim Childress, general manager. Within a 20-mile radius of the mall there are 1.5 million people, he added.
Once it reopens with 16 anchors, stores will be clustered in three "neighborhoods" along with a food court and center court. Employment will double from today's 1,500 full- and part-time employees, Childress said.
About 70 percent of the space will be leased when renovations are completed, with more stores opening in time for the Christmas season and a third batch on target to open early in 2005, Childress said.
The mall has the capacity for about 150 retail stores and a dozen vendors in the food court, Childress said.
Much of the decor comes from the region, including Coney Island-like roller coasters or Ohio River fish.
Inflatable cows will "roam" through the "country" section of the mall, while fish suspended over the food court will "make you feel like you're underwater. You get a sense you're in the Ohio River - but in a good way," Beatty said.
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