As the Lehndorff Group's only urban shopping center, Crossroads Plaza presents some unique benefits and challenges to the national developer and manager.
Lehndorff's other retail properties are located in suburbs serving easily defined markets in terms of income, tastes and lifestyle. But when a shopping mall is located downtown, adjoining a major hotel and across the street from an international tourist site, nailing down the profile of the typical customer can be difficult."We get a lot of different people going through here," says mall manager David R. Neilson.
In addition to international tourist traffic, Crossroads caters to the downtown business community, nearby residential areas and even faithful shoppers from neighboring states. The result is a mix of high and low income, local and international, conservative and liberal clientele.
Recognizing its eclectic market, Lehndorff has tried to land tenants with national recognition as well has home-grown merchants to serve a wide range of tastes. Since Lehndorff acquired 50 percent interest in the 632,000-square-foot downtown plaza and office tower in 1986, it has brought in more than 20 national retail and food vendors, and there are more to come, offering a wider range of retail goods.
Several new food and retail outlets are scheduled to open shop this year in the newly renovated Richards Street Marketplace, where vacancy stands at about 80 percent. The upper three stores boast a vacancy rate of about 5 percent, while the 16-floor office tower is 92 percent leased.
Neilson declines to disclose Crossroads' sales per square foot, but he claims the rate is "high . . . in comparison to the national average of urban malls of the same size."
He noted that not many urban malls in the country have the advantages of an adjoining Marriott Hotel or neighboring convention facilities and other centers of activity, which naturally create traffic.
"I wish all of our malls would be lucky enough to have a Marriott next to them," said Lehndorff regional manager Rob Snowden.
Despite the mall's advantages, tenants still express some frustration about frequent changes in management and conflicts among the project's owners delaying improvement projects.
"There is always confusion because it is hard to get questions answered," when management keeps changing, said Pam Prince, owner of Pamela's and Crabtree & Evelyn located on the Richard's Street level.
Neilson was Lehndorff's first Crossroads manager and returned last month after his replacement was ousted. Neilson said his return was simply the result of a companywide reshuffling of management.
Amid controversy over building a shopping plaza across the street from the ZCMI Center, Crossroads opened in 1980. The mall has quickly evolved into one of the city's busiest venues, which has resulted in its taking partial blame for the blight of south downtown by keeping all shopping traffic in the northern end of the city.
Lehndorff knew it was purchasing a profitable property when it acquired Equitable Life Assurance Society's share in the property in 1986. But the Dallas-based developer knew the mall also needed some help to reach its full potential.
In addition to attracting new tenants, Lehndorff has an ambitious remodeling program to update the mall's interior. An extensive renovation of the Richards Street level is nearing completion, and Neilson said shoppers will see cosmetic changes, such as new flooring, furnishings and foliage, take place on the upper levels in the next few years.
"Interiors can get dated fast, so you have to change with the times," he said.
Other changes in the near future include a new logo and signs, as well as a marketing program to attract more shoppers from Idaho and Wyoming.