The University Mall in Orem is in the midst of extensive renovation. The Provo Towne Center is coming together quickly in south Provo. Between them on the Orem-Provo border The Shops at Riverwoods is poised to make its debut in less than a month.
Utah County is becoming a shoppers' mecca. But don't expect Riverwoods to get into a mall war as hot as the summer sun."We're not really in competition with either of those shopping centers," said Ralph Epstein, managing member of TRS Partners, the San Francisco-based company developing the $30 million project near the mouth of Provo Canyon.
The specialty stores at Riverwoods, he said, target an upscale clientele that will find its village streetscape "a lot more appealing than being herded through a mall that looks like every other mall in the United States."
About half of the 45 shops planned for the development, including such stores as Banana Republic and Williams-Sonoma, will open Aug. 8. Epstein said 90 percent of the 192,000 square feet of the available retail space is already leased. Other stores and restaurants will open in coming months.
Ground will be broken for another 100,000 square feet of stores early next year.
While retailers have found The Shops at Riverwoods an attractive opportunity, restaurants have not. So far, Romano's Macaroni Grill, a family-style Italian restaurant owned by the company that owns Chili's, is the only eatery in the mix.
"Typically, on a project like this you have to fight the restaurants away with a fly swatter," Epstein said.
What's keeping them out? Restaurants don't think they'll be able to make much money on alcohol sales in teetotaling Utah Valley.
Out-of-state restaurateurs simply aren't familiar with the local market, Epstein said. "There's all kinds of ways to make what's lost in liquor sales," he said. But that's not to say restaurants at Riverwoods won't have liquor licenses. They will.
The new shopping center resembles a downtown. The main street will have two-way traffic with parking in front of the shops. Parking lots also flank the stores, most of which have front and back entrances. Planter boxes and trees line the street, which will feature an interactive fountain at the east end. Sculptures by local artist James Christensen will adorn the fountain and the development's main entrance.
"It's supposed to give people the feeling of a town square," Epstein said. The open-air environment, he said, is unique to Utah.
The Shops at Riverwoods is holding an Elizabethan-style street festival starting at 10 a.m. Aug. 8 to celebrate the project's opening. Wandering minstrels, jugglers and magicians will entertain shoppers during the day. A fireworks show is scheduled for 10 p.m. that night.