Shops thriving, tenants coming as Town Square nears five-year milestone

Town Square Las Vegas is celebrating its fifth birthday next month by filling empty space.

By the 1.2 million-square-foot retail and office center’s birthday on Nov. 14, it should be home to five new tenants, with at least two more opening by the beginning of 2013.

The mall’s general manager, Mike Wethington, said next month’s openings are: Stoney’s Rockin’ Country, a 900-square-foot Aveda, Charming Charlie, Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. and Meatball Spot. Faris Lee Investments and Bone Fish Grill are scheduled to open in early 2013. The new openings will bring Town Square’s tenant count to 120.

Wethington said new stores, restaurants and offices attract new customers to the center, but Town Square already is successful in that regard.

"We’ve had good success with sales increases year after year," Wethington said.

Jennifer Brusven, manager for It’s Sugar, said traffic at the candy store has doubled since last year, while sales are "strong" and up over last year, though she couldn’t give a specific number.

"I’ve worked all over retail for 14 years, and I’ve never seen a mall do so much to help drive sales, in terms of support and events," Brusven said. "We know not all events drive customers, but in an overall sense, … to me it’s priceless."

Patty Barba, founder of Patty’s Closet, agreed that the events help. The franchised Patty’s Closet is about to mark its first full year of business in Town Square.

"At the beginning we had no doubt going into Town Square that it would do good," Barba said. "It was a really good response when we opened that location. It’s been doing really well. I honestly think it can only get better."

A CHANGING SHOP COLLECTION

Although many stores are thriving at the center, some tenants haven’t been so lucky.

Recent closures include Borders, which was replaced by The Container Store; Cadillac Ranch, replaced by Ranch House Kitchen; Nu Sanctuary is being replaced by Meatball Spot; and Eddie Bauer was replaced by Barre Las Vegas and Charming Charlie’s new 6,000-square-foot location.

"The closings we have had, we’re able to fill with what we feel are very strong retailers or restaurants," Wethington said.

The center is now 85 percent leased.

Since The Container Store opened in May, Wethington said the store has brought "tremendous traffic."

Olescia Hanson, spokeswoman for The Container Store, said: "The store has been doing exceptionally well. We’re pleased with our location and our customer base there."

And in the future, visitors to Town Square’s property shouldn’t be surprised if a hotel pops up someday.

"We definitely have the option to do it because of our zoning, but there aren’t specific plans right now," Wethington said. "That’s the great thing about a shopping center like Town Square, we have the option of adding diverse options to what we already have."

More probable future additions to Town Square probably will include another entertainment component, as Wethington said, "We definitely have some dealings going on with a couple different groups."

Wethington added that he’s still looking to add anchor tenants to the north and south sides of Town Square, and specifically, at least one fashion anchor. As for the open space, Wethington said retail is doing well, but "the office market is still very challenging in the market. The good news is we’re seeing some growth."

Although he couldn’t disclose specifics, Wethington said he’s working on other leasing deals he hopes to have finished by year’s end.

FILLING A NICHE

A retail official said Town Square fills a niche in the Las Vegas shopping scene.

"I think Town Square provides a unique destination," Retail Association of Nevada government affairs director Bryan Wachter said. "It capitalizes on the good weather Las Vegas experiences for most of the year."

He explained that each retail center struggles with how it will provide a new experience for shoppers, but Town Square does that with its park and outdoor walkability.

"It fills that niche," Wachter said.

Wachter said his group is upbeat about the future of Las Vegas retail.

"(The association is) very optimistic with the increases in retail sales we’ve seen for almost two years," he said. "It shows a willingness for consumers to spend more."

On the way to its fifth birthday, Town Square has had to travel a rough road.

In March 2011, Town Square was foreclosed on by lenders and leasing activity was transferred to Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, a real estate owner, developer and manager with approximately $10.7 billion in assets throughout the United States.

When it opened in 2007, Town Square was a joint venture of Las Vegas-based Centra Properties and Florida-based Turnberry Associates, which took out a $470 million construction loan funded by a group of banks. That loan was paid down to $448.6 million in March 2009. Turnberry then obtained another loan of $50 million.

An attempt to obtain $625 million in long-term financing from Lehman Bros. collapsed when Lehman failed in September 2008. Thus, Town Square’s owners had to try to rework the loan terms with their lenders.

In 2010, the loans ultimately went into default, with the primary lenders being the Bank of Nova Scotia and Deutsche Bank.

DISPUTE TAKEN TO COURT

Since the foreclosure, Miami-based developers Jeffrey and Jacquelyn Soffer and their company, Turnberry Capital, have sued Stamford, Conn., investment firm Five Mile Capital Partners contending that Five Mile worked to oust Jeffrey Soffer from his Town Square ownership position in 2011 while outwardly acting as his partner in loan restructuring negotiations.

Soffer is claiming $300 million in damages and the case is in U.S. District Court.

According to the complaint, Turnberry Capital spent more than two years trying to restructure the almost $500 million in loans. The effort included bringing in Five Mile Capital Partners as a potential co-owner.

However, the court papers contend that Five Mile covertly switched from partner to adversary, buying enough of the loans then in default to force a foreclosure and squeeze out the Soffers.

Court papers show that Five Mile was concerned that Soffer was misusing Town Square income for purposes such as paying legal bills, while operations deteriorated and tenants departed.

In the court papers, Soffer said the lenders were working with him until Five Mile bought enough of the debt to block restructuring. Foreclosure went ahead at a bid of $276.5 million in 2011.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588.

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