The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

June 5, 2012

Oakwood ‘de-malling’

Renovation would retain anchors, build new retail space after razing indoor mall

ENID — A national real estate development company announced Tuesday it plans to redevelop Oakwood Mall, replacing the indoor commons area with parking and walking space, and rebuilding all except the three largest stores.

James Dill, CEO of Tulsa-based Vector Companies, said Tuesday he has talked with Oakwood anchor tenants —Dillard’s, Sears and JCPenney  — to obtain their permission to proceed with redevelopment of the 29-year-old enclosed mall. Dill said the plans call for “de-malling,” or the complete change of the mall into an outdoor, regional shopping center, and adding new jobs with new nationally known stores.

The plan would add several new retailers, including Petco, Maurice’s and Ulta, and move Showplex Cinema to a freestanding building on the southwest corner of the mall property, as a new 10- or 12-screen theater.

Dill said the existing Chen Garden restaurant will relocate, and developers are negotiating with Olive Garden, Texas and/or Logan’s Roadhouse, Los Cabos Mexican Grill, Charleston’s restaurant and others.

The company is talking with existing businesses about relocating from the mall building to the new retail space, surrounded by a landscaped plaza with a water feature.

J. Herzog & Sons Inc., the managing company of the mall, announced Tuesday it is exploring an option with Vector to redevelop the mall into a regional open-air retail and entertainment center. While the proposed redevelopment is explored, Oakwood Mall will continue to operate as the largest enclosed mall in northwest Oklahoma.

The plan includes 475,000 square feet for a regional open-air retail and entertainment center featuring many existing mall retailers, about 200,000 square feet of new retailers and restaurants and a state-of-the-art movie theater.

Dill emphasized business will not be interrupted during construction and that retailers will not move until the new facilities are open. The three anchor stores each will receive a new “skin.” He said those companies also may do redecorating within the stores.

Goody’s, which also is an existing department store, will have a new building constructed, Dill said.

Dill, along with Vector President Brenda Dill, made the announcement Tuesday with City Manager Eric Benson and Enid businessman Brad Waken.

“The desire is to have a casual dining, medium-priced, varied-menu restaurant, a steakhouse and a festive, fun, medium-priced restaurant overlooking the water feature for adults and their families to enjoy,” Dill said.

Chick-fil-A also will move to a new building on the northwest corner of the property, Dill said. Owners will own their own building and land.

Dill said the mall generates about $1.5 million in sales and ad valorem tax, and he expects to double that amount.

Vector is asking the city of Enid and Garfield County to consider sharing net new city sales tax revenue and net new county ad valorem tax revenue above the current ad valorem tax base, generated by retailers in the redeveloped Oakwood project.

“We’re not asking for any cash up-front. From day one, the city and county will receive sales tax and ad valorem tax they are not receiving now,” Dill said.

Dill said Enid’s economic output is what attracted his attention. It is a better location to sell than Stillwater be-cause of the larger trade territory and higher income, education level and home ownership rates.

“The proof of the pudding is the sales tax,” Dill said.

 Enid retail consultant Rickey Hayes originally recruited Dill to look at Enid.

“Once Jim Dill saw the potential here, he ran with the ball. Rickey Hayes was part and parcel of this project,” Benson said.

Dill is negotiating with stores such as Michael’s, which will have representatives in Enid this week.

“This will re-make the retail face of Enid. This is a giant jump start to retail sales in the city and in the region,” Benson said.

It took a lot of negotiating, but the three Oakwood Mall anchor stores “are now on board with this concept. This is a real good deal for these retailers,” Dill said.

Explaining why it took such a long time to put the $35 million de-malling plan together, Dill said: “Lenders are very anxious about making real estate loans in a tertiary market,” something smaller than a big metropolitan area. “We’ve got to get this almost bulletproof — almost to the economically break-even point.”

With consistent growth in consumer spending, Enid is getting some attention. As soon as those retailers who come in are successful, a secondary group of retailers will come in, Dill said.

Dill said the retail redevelopment will generate about 100 new jobs during construction, and about 150 new permanent retail jobs.

Dill said he is encouraging current businesses to remain so his company can build them a new home.

“This is the largest economic boon to Enid in 30 years. This brings the players off the sidelines,” Benson said.

Until the development becomes a reality, all Herzog employees and vendors will continue to operate the mall as usual with no changes, and all retailers will remain open and operating as usual throughout the proposed redevelopment.

The project was discussed at Tuesday’s City Commission study session and will be brought up for a vote in two weeks, Benson said.

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