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Anyone listening carefully in May likely could have heard a collective “Hurrah!” from women around the metro when Anthropologie sent word that it was coming to town. But with the news of the 10,000-square-foot store was something a little unexpected: When it opens in February, it won’t be coming to a mall near you.
Those have included Banana
Republic, J. Crew, Eddie Bauer, Apple and Coach. For Anthropologie,
experts say Penn Square seemed the most likely choice, but the company,
owned by Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters, plans to open next to
Whole Foods Market in a space that has yet to be built: a development
dubbed Triangle at Classen Curve.
“I was somewhat surprised,” says Mark Inman, a retail broker with CB Richard Ellis|Oklahoma. “It’s a bit unusual, but I think they’re on to something.”
This departure from the traditional mall is a trend toward some upscale retailers locating in lifestyle centers, according to local retail experts, but don’t write off malls just yet.
“People don’t need to worry about malls going away,” says Jim Parrack, senior vice president at Price Edwards & Co. “They are a unique part of our shopping culture.”
One thing that helps malls such as Penn Square is that the metro area does not have a large lifestyle center that could lure its tenants away. Inman says a true lifestyle center has at least 200,000- 250,000 square feet.
“That’s kind of the magic number of cotenancy square footage, where you can attract other high-end stores,” he says. “Since we don’t have that, our option is Penn Square.”
While the metro area has a smattering of upscale centers, including Spring Creek Village and Spring Creek Plaza in Edmond, each with about 60,000 square feet, there is nothing comparable to Tulsa’s more-than- 400,000-square-foot Utica Square.
Chesapeake Energy Corp., owner and developer of the Whole Foods and Triangle sites, has been tight-lipped about additional development on that block. Until such a time that a lifestyle center comes along, Penn Square likely will be where many upscale brands land.
“Penn Square is still ground zero,” Inman says. “There is a co-tenancy of higher-end stores, and it’s a very strong mall.”
With many malls around the country and around the metro area struggling, one website, Deadmalls.com, is dedicated to tracking those, but no one is writing an obituary for Penn Square. With almost consistent 100% occupancy, it continues to be one of the healthiest malls in the region, and is hardly gathering cobwebs, says Alison Oshel, director of community redevelopment for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.
On the heels of the Anthropologie announcement, Penn Square picked up two additional national tenants: women’s retailer
Apricot Lane is set to open in August, and Fossil, known for its watches, handbags and apparel, is set to open in September.
With Penn Square staying full, it provides a stumbling block for the chamber’s efforts to lure additional upscale retailers. Oshel says there is plenty of interest, but few options for retailers looking to open shop here. She says if the Triangle is developed with additional retail, there would be no problem filling that future space. It is located just west of the Chesapeake campus at N.W. 63rd Street and Western Avenue.
“If Chesapeake would develop all the land it has for retail, we could fill it up,” she says. “We’ve got that much interest.”
Parrack says, at some point in the near future, developers may need to begin looking at building a large lifestyle center here. For now, he says nothing is in the works. With financing hard to acquire and retail just rebounding from the recession, a lifestyle center will be needed, but where it would be, and who would pay for it are questions that remain.
“If we’re going to attract more highend retailers, we’re going to need a project built that is of the quality and in a location to satisfy the needs of those kinds of retailers,” he says.