Muskegon Retail Corridors Anchor Now Open

June 13, 2002
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MUSKEGON — The opening of The Lakes Mall in Muskegon provides the area much more than a new place to shop. It will also help keep a far larger share of the retail dollar locally.

About 70 percent of the retailers in the mall are new to the Muskegon market but do have a presence elsewhere in West Michigan. Bringing those retailers to Muskegon should alleviate the tendency of shoppers to travel to Grand Rapids or Holland, which in turn keeps the spending locally, said Michael Lebovitz, senior vice president for The Lakes Mall’s developer, Chattanooga, Tenn.-based CBL & Associates Properties Inc.

“There’s no question; our research showed there was leakage. Those discretionary dollars were just leaving this market,” Lebovitz said of the retail spending local residents have for years done elsewhere.

Exactly how much retail spending leaves Muskegon County annually for other retail destinations in hard to gauge, although many believe the mall’s opening last week should help to largely stem that migration, even well after the novelty of The Lakes wears off. That’s because retailers have long considered West Michigan an “under-retailed” market, even after the opening of the RiverTown Crossings mall in Grandville in late 1999.

The Lakes Mall eliminates the retail void, particularly for the Muskegon area, and the need for people to travel elsewhere for a day of shopping, Lebovitz said.

“We’re comfortable people aren’t going to come to this mall (only) once,” Lebovitz said. “It probably fills the market void that really existed here.”

Efforts to further fill that void are visible through the rapid spin-off development occurring in the vicinity of the mall, located on Sternberg Road, just east of U.S. 31 in Fruitport Township. Several new retail and residential developments are going up or planned for the emerging retail corridor.

The Lakes Mall will clearly anchor that corridor and serve primarily Muskegon County, north Ottawa County and southern Oceana County, a core market area with more than 245,000 people who have a median annual income of $48,000 to $50,000.

The 700,000-square-foot mall consists of three anchor stores — Sears, Younkers and JC Penney — and 71 retail spaces, 80 percent of which are leased. Tenants consist of a mixture of national chains and locally-based retail stores.

Additional tenants are in the works, with some prospects likely waiting for a while as the retail market develops around the mall, General Manager Rich Pangratz said.

“There are some people who are going to wait to see how our mall does before they come here,” Pangratz said.

In the future, CBL hopes to lure a fourth anchor store to the mall, as well as an additional major attraction, such as a movie theater. Future expansion will occur “as the market evolves,” Lebovitz said. CBL, one of the largest developers and operator of regional malls and smaller shopping centers in the U.S., plans to make periodic upgrades to the property as needs dictate to keep it up to date, he said.

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