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The Mills Mall: A Playing, Buying Environment: Formidable Cappelli Competitor
Posted on Wednesday, December 11 @ 15:49:07 EST by jfbailey
WPCNR WHITE PLAINS MAIN STREET JOURNAL. By John F. Bailey. December 11, 2002: The landing of The Mills Corporation in White Plains, inventors of the “malls and beyond concept” will test its formulas for successful original malls in Orange, California, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida in attempting to make over The Galleria.
The Mills formula will be tested to see if it can bring a mall pioneer in Westchester, the perpetually successful, much maligned anchor of the 80s, The Galleria, into strong competitive position with The Westchester and the City Center under construction.
Around America with Mills
White Plains economists can get a very good handle on just how formidable Mills is by going to Mills’ detailed website at www.millscorp.com, where a complete description of their present properties is presented.
Westchester Shopping Still Based on the Walt Whitman Mall Model. No more.
Mall shopping was invented in the New York Metropolitan Area in Huntington, Long Island, at the famous Walt Whitman mall which opened in 1963, and is still in business. However, mall shopping in the New York area has, for the most part followed the “park-and-shop-at-a-lot-of-stores model” that has changed little from the basic Walt Whitman Mall concept.
The newer malls in Westchester and surrounding areas: the Stamford Town Center, and the Palisades Mall, and our own The Westchester, have brought toney shopping and architectural ambience (the Palisades Mall excluded), are still simply places to shop, with possibly a movie.
A lot more than mall
Mills Corporation specializes in a mall where there are recreational pursuits as well as shopping. They have built their malls outside highly populated cities to appeal to the suburbs with a strategy of giving families enough different activities so they could actually stay the whole day at their malls and not be bored.
Mills Corporation has built a strong brand name “The Mills” and their malls are known by names such as Franklin Mills (“Pennsylvania’s Most Visited Attraction”), in Philadelphia, “The Block” in Orange, California, and Sawgrass Mills in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
"Let's Go to the Mall on Vacation."
Tourists across the country go to “The Mills” projects as tourist attractions because of what there is to do there. Mills projects have the aura and attraction of such state of the art malls as Quayside in Miami. They are “destination malls,” while malls in Westchester are simply just places to shop.
The New York Challenge
The Mills malls offer amusements, toney, upscale stores, theaters, and themes in their malls, creating entire environments, not quite Disney Worlds, but a lot more than just shopping.
The Most Glamorous Retail Free Agents.
The Mills are bigtime with bigtime stores on a string that are eager to work with Mills projects all over the country and already do.
The Mills “force” presents a strong competitive challenge and a glamorous partner to the pioneering Super Developer, Louis Cappelli, which may aid Mr. Cappelli's City Center in leasing up the rest of its retail and restaurant space, while stimulating retail interest in Mr. Cappelli’s hotel project he aims to build between Grace Church and Court Street on Main Street. The Mills Corporation likes hotels, too.
Galleria to be a compliment to Meadowlands Xanadu IF it happens
The Galleria is the first mall Mills has acquired in the metropolitan area. While The Galleria is the first, Mills is strong in the running to be granted the rights to develop in the Meadowlands complex as soon as next month. The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority is expected to make the decision on the developer for the rest of the Jersey swamp site at the end of January.
Money Talks. Nobody Walks.
The scope of the money clout Mills brings to a Galleria makeover can be seen in their plans for “Meadowlands Xanadu,” that will make the Meadowlands a heckuva lot more than ho-hum Giants, same old Jets, maybe Nets and invisible Devils, the hapless professional teams that frequent the Meadowlands now.
Turning the Swamp into A Place You Want to Go to.
Mills’ concepts for Meadowlands Xanadu stop just short of being a Disney World in Jersey. Listen to what they're talking about for Jersey:
A Family Entertainment facility consisting of an indoor skiing facility, indoor wave surfing, fishing, rock and ice climbing, extreme wheel sports courses for bikers, rollerbladers and skateboarders, a children’s “educational venue”, a “movie palace”, luxury spa, and, for course restaurants.
Business Market, too.
They are also “throwing in” a luxury convention hotel, hot wired office space. Mills public relations hype touts Meadowlands Xanadu as “the most expansive and innovative entertainment and retail found at any location in North America.” Wow.
Big Time Player.
That’s not of course going all into The Galleria, however it shows you the way Mills thinks: give the people recreation with their shopping they’ll stay all day, spend more, eat more, and you make more money.
The usual retailer suspects.
The retailers that Louis Cappelli has worked so hard to bring to his City Center are already key players in the Mills lineup nationwide. Some even have bases in The Westchester now.
Think of the luxury Mills has:
Mills can now pick and choose the retail role players, and key recreational components they think will juice The Galleria, while, simultaneously providing a contrast to The Westchester, Westchester Plaza and City Center mix.
The Galleria a Survivor.
The Galleria is no slouch now. It is actually approximately 90% rented at the present time, according to Mills own news release.
Let’s check out The Block, Mills southern California mall in Orange County, a county of 3 million people, inland from Los Angeles, a short distance from Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The Blockl bills itself as “southern California’s most imaginative dining, shopping, and entertainment experience.” It’s an open-air promade where kids can go skateboarding. It has AMC theatres, Borders Books, Dave & Busters, Power House, Hilo Hattie, Off 5th, Old Navy Ron-Jon Surf Shop, Vans Skate Park and Virgin Megastore. Speciality stores include: Athlete’s Foot, Big Dog Sportswear, Corner Bakery, Frederick’s of Hollywood, Skechers, Starbucks Café, Café Tu Tu Tango and Wolfgang Puck Café’.
A mere 50 miles away from The Block, Mills is competing with itself, successfully with Ontario Mills, in the heart of “The Inland Empire,” the very toney San Bernardino, Riverside, California area. Ontario Mills features many of the same stores and attractions at the Block, but renders them in a completely different environment.
Meanwhile back on the East Coast...
In Florida, a “destination attraction” is Sawgrass Mills, (a facility even Paula Kelleher, Marketing Director of The Galleria raved about to WPCNR), just outside of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Sawgrass Mills offers locals and snowbirds 400 name brand stores, including Off 5th, Last Call!, The Clearance Center from Nieman-Marcus, Disney’s Character Premier, Kenneth Cole, Tommy Hilfiger Company Store, Mikasa Factory Store, Banana Republic Factory Store, Gap Outlet.
Within Sawgrass Mills is a restaurant complex called “The Oasis" that features 30 restaurants, most of the sit-down variety, and include Hard Rock Café, Legal Sea Food, The Cheesecake Factory, Wolfgang Puck Café, Rainforest Café, plus a Gameworks and, in case you are bored, 23 Regal Movie Theatres.
However, Mills purchase of The Galleria, and four other Cadillac Fairview malls and a recent acquisition in Cincinnati are their first attempts at mall makeovers. The corporation creates great malls, but can they use the same formula in miniature when they do not have acres and acres to theme and entice and enhance?
The jury is still out on Mills’ first attempts at a mall makeover, the Forest Fair Mall outside Cincinnati.
According to a Mills press release commenting on what they propose to do with this mall which they acquired in September, 2002, just 4 months ago, they are going to give Forest Fair a complete makeover. The mall has been perpetually troubled by ambitious management with shallow pockets. Mills has deep pockets.
Mills promises the Cincinnati poor performer, “a complete makeover,” and they are renaming it Cincinnati Mills. Highlights of the renovation, according to Mills publicity, are “signature Mills treatments, such as gleaming hardwood floors, festive neighborhoods, state-of-the-art Mills TV and sound systems, and an unsurpassed security system.”
All Mills malls have the recquisite cool logo, very cute themed sections, and that welcoming, hospitality you seem to experience at southern restaurants.
Martin Mac Donald, with Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, quoted by Mills, defines the Mills touch like landing a jitterbug just right at the mouth of a Largemouth Bass: “Our stores (Bass Pro Shops) have flourished in Mills locations. The Mills Corporation approach of building dynamic destination shopping creates shopping and entertainment adventures that excite consumers.”
Cincinnati, a lot like Westchester has 1.5 Million people within 20 miles. Forest Fair is located off I-275, the main conduit to the Cincinnati burbs, as White Plains is hard by the hubs of the Sprain, Cross Westchester, and I-95 and the Hutchinson River Parkway.
Jobs Appear Safe at The Galleria Makeover. Could Remain Open as Renovations Begin.
Mills Corporation is remodeling Forest Fair while keeping the mall open for business. They have also kept all of the onsite employees of the Cincinnati mall’s previous owner, according to Mills release.
The Galleria over the years has shown the ability to keep crowds coming in despite poor word of mouth. Media preoccupation with security concerns, and that staple of all malls, the well-heeled teen.
Catering to a younger, middle class clientele, with shoe stores, casual wear, and the ever popular Disney Store, it is the place to go to hang out for 8’s to 18s, staple clothing shopping for families on a budget, but not for serious discretionary big buck browsing.
Long home of A & S and J.C. Penney, which never seemed crowded, The Galleria draws more to the specialty shops, that have lasted and lasted, the Claire’s store, Foot Locker, Yankee Clubhouse, faddy flings are the sizzle there, and it is very trendy. The Galleria has very reasonable parking, though the security is often criticized.
Theatres have never flown there, though the thought of putting the theatre on the top floor as noted in media reports is a step in the right direction. The downstairs theatre never appealed to persons going there. WPCNR is checking into whether The Galleria could add on floors, given its present foundation structure. Mills Corporation projects are not cookie-cutter jobs. Each is unique, themed, and combine the magic suspension of time and responsibilities afforded in an amusement park, with the leisure of selecting a first class dining experience, with the most enticing merch any material girl or patriotic spender could want.
The Galleria has about fifteen fastfood specialty restaurants. It features extensive pushcart stand vendors encouraging the immediate, inexpensive pleasurable purchase, crowded, raw speciality shops and few sitdown restaurants, Greenjeans being the last one this reporter remembers.
To The Galleria’s credit it reinvented its interior in response to challenges from Westchester Plaza Mall and The Westchester, and has kept the crowds coming in, despite its loss of JC Penney, a year ago. Sears, we learned from Paula Kelleher, Director of Marketing at The Galleria, will be coming on board, opening in August, 2003.
Possibilities Boggle the Mind
With their built in roster of name stores, many of which are not presently in White Plains, Mills can put together a name appeal that can counter balance the City Center, the Westchester Plaza and the Westchester.
I could see bringing in Fredericks of Hollywood, we do not have THAT in White Plains, to compete with Victoria’s Secret that is in The Westchester, and presently in The Galleria itself. Off 5th, the Saks Fifth Avenue outlet would get our teens started in the upscale jean direction.
Adding a recreational mix: a skateboard ramp down one of the parking garage ramps, guys?Or a double black diamond ski shoot using air rights above Main Street to cater to those skiing financial types and lawyers in the White Plains West End? Or how about this, a rock-climbing wall on the outside of The Galleria parking garage? (Call it Spidey’s Wall). A deal with Louis Cappelli could put in a sky ski track from the top of the Cappelli towers, flying above Main Street down to the Galleria Roof. There are possibilities for biker races up and down the parking ramps. A motor cycle grand prix course.
Of course, I am being facetious here, but bringing in the Mills trademark of recreation ambience, upscale mix to Westchester County at the Galleria would bring a different, proven-successful retail lure to White Plains, unlike anything the metropolitan area has now.
A Better Restaurant Row.
The Mills trademark of attractive, good, sitdown restaurants in its malls as opposed to the fastfood staples available in most malls is one direction they may take The Galleria, revamping its entertainment possibilities. Though they usually bring in recognized chain theme successes like your Legal Seafoods, Wolfgang Puck Café, Starbucks (Hey, sign them now, we do need a Starbucks in town!), they could very well use The Galleria as an incubator for new dining concepts to turn The Galleria into a lot more than a cheap date. As of now, there are no great dating malls in White Plains.
White Plains third big Player arrives following the Cappelli Charisma
Louis Cappelli, the Super Developer’s confidence in White Plains, has now induced first Fortunoff and now the Mills Corporation into following his lead in sinking major “jing” into White Plains’ future.
Mills Corporation, like Fortunoff, has a solid record of success. They know what people like, and how to keep them coming back. They currently own and manage Franklin Mills in Philadelphia; Arundel Mills in Anne Arundel County, Maryland; Potomac Mills, Prince William, Virginia; Concord Mills, Concord, North Carolina; Discover Mills outside Atlanta; Opry Mills in Nashville; Katy Mills in Houston and Grapevine Mills in Dallas, Texas; Colorado Mills in Denver; Arizona Mills in Tempe; And are developing The Piers on San Francisco Bay, St. Louis Mills in Hazeltine, Missouri; 108 North State Street, Chicago; and Vaughn Mills, Ontario, Canada.