Convention lets centers, renters meet
Publication date: 10/23/02 – Source: The Times
Article Title:  Convention lets centers, renters meet
Brendan O’Shaughnessy, Business Writer

It’s where the big brokers and developers flex demographic muscles and rub real estate shoulders. 

Retail chains looking to expand and shopping malls looking for tenants attended a conference Tuesday called Chicago Deal Making, hosted by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

David Lasser, president of Commercial In-Sites in Merrillville, roamed the aisles of booths to ensure that Northwest Indiana would not be forgotten by the Buffalo Wild Wings of the world.  But he said his bigger goal was to identify so-called anchor tenants, the large chain stores that lease or buy a huge space and then draw consumers and smaller stores around it like peasants to the manor house.

 “We’re trying to get Chicago players to look at Northwest Indiana,” Lasser said. “Big retailers start in Chicago, then go north and west.  We want to get them here.”

The conference, featuring nearly 200 exhibitors and more than 2,000 attendees, facilitates the meetings and discussions that lead to development deals.  Business people passed out cards and demographic information to begin the complicated process of hooking a big retailer.

Lasser said he hopes to gain interest in possible tenants and find developers who believe stores will locate in Northwest Indiana in the future.  There is a bigger convention in Las Vegas, but the downtown Chicago convention focuses on the Midwest, he said. 

“There are only so many vacant land spots left,” he said.  Most stores are looking at proximity of population.  Some have specific traffic requirements.”

For example, a brochure for Buffalo Wild Wings said it needed a population of 25,000 within three miles to locate a new store.  It already has restaurants in Schererville and Merrillville.

Larger aspirations include finding shopping center developers for vacant land at the crossroads of Broadway and I-65 in Merrillville and Hobart.  Lasser passed out pictures showing a 24-acre spot wedged between huge stores like Sears, Wal-Mart and Home Depot.

Tri-Land Properties, Inc., posted a blueprint at its exhibit for redeveloping Century Consumer Mall at Route 30 and Broadway in Merrillville.

Terry Alexa, vice president of leasing, said he couldn’t give away names of anchor tenants he has talked to about taking over the former Ward’s building or a new building between Ward’s and the Burlington Coat Factory.  Possibilities include additional fashion, furniture or sporting goods stores, he said.

“We believe the prospects are very good,” Alexa said.  “The area gets a tremendous traffic count.”

Because many factors can sink a deal, Alexa said he did not want to scare away other potential tenants for the 150,000- and 200,000-square foot sites at the renamed Century Plaza.  The company was also seeking smaller tenants for 12 slots in a nearby strip mall it will begin constructing in spring of 2003.

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