Friday, June 25, 2010

Simon Property Group sets eye on expanding outlet malls

After Simon Property Group gave up trying to buy its biggest mall-owning rival, attention shifted to its $2.3 billion purchase of Prime Retail Outlets.

The owner of Tyrone and Gulf View Square malls, Simon will land the teeming Prime Outlets Ellenton and Orlando in a deal sealing control of 77 of the nation's 217 outlet mall properties.

Antitrust regulators are still combing the deal struck seven months ago, but likely not with the same zeal as when Simon had a second offer out to grab General Growth Properties Inc., too. That $11 billion deal would have added 158 more top-tier malls to Simon's 380-mall trophy case, or a third of all the regional malls in the United States.

But it wasn't a lack of cash or regulators that put the kibosh on Simon. It became evident General Growth didn't want Simon once the management and creditors took a lower offer, said David Simon, chief executive.
Locally the Manatee County outlet would bookend Tampa Bay with Tampa Premium Outlets, a counterpart Simon has planned for years at State Road 52 and Interstate 75 in Pasco County.

The Pasco mall was supposed to open in 2008, but was put off until 2011 by the economic collapse. The inactivity energized the rumor mill about sites closer to town. One had Sierra Properties wooing Simon's Pasco project south as part the sprawling Cypress Creek development at SR 56. Meanwhile, a Washington, D.C., developer appeared with plans for a mall-size hotel-retail development at the Florida State Fairgrounds. That harks back to a mid 1990s attempt to put an outlet mall there to feed off the tourists drawn to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino.

It's too late for Simon to open in 2011. The players will not comment on rumors or when the market might recover enough for another outlet mall.

"We are still very committed to Tampa-St. Pete and think it would be an outstanding market for our Premium Outlets concept," said Michelle Rothstein, a Simon spokeswoman. "We hope to have an announcement in the near future."

Shailendra Group, the Atlanta developer that wants to fit the Premium Outlets mall into part of 950 acres it acquired in 2002, heard the rumors.

"I cannot comment," said Ron Weaver, Shailendra's Tampa attorney. "But we do have the best site."

SOURCE: St. Petersburg Times

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