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Fashion Place to bulk up, rearrange its look

30-year-old mall to double in size and add parking terraces by spring 2003

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MURRAY — Fashion Place Mall will nearly double in size, double its sales tax revenue and have two multilevel parking terraces when developers are done renovating the 30-year-old mall in spring 2003, Jerome Smalley told city leaders.

Smalley, executive vice president of development for the Maryland-based Rouse Co., which purchased the mall in 1998, was invited to present his plans Monday to the Murray City Council for the near-total renovation and to silence rumors that City Council chairman John Rush said have been "swirling around" since the acquisition.

With plans anticipated to be finished this fall and construction slated to begin in spring 2001, council members and Rouse representatives said they felt it was time to put their plans out in the open.

According to Smalley's plans, the mall will jump from its current 748,000 square feet to 1.2 million. The most obvious differences will be in the size and location of Fashion Place's four anchor stores — Nordstrom, Dillard's, Sears and a May Co. unit. The May Co. recently purchased ZCMI, and it also owns Lord & Taylor, Meier & Frank, Foley's and Robinson's-May.

Although the Fashion Place Nordstrom is profitable now, generating $60 million in annual gross sales, Rouse's plans include expanding it from its current 90,000 square feet to approximately 150,000 square feet on the north end of the property.

Smalley said the current store does not allow Nordstrom to offer as much merchandise to its customers as it could. "It does not allow them the breadth of merchandise offering that is suitable to this marketplace."

Dillard's currently has 180,000 square feet in what Smalley called a "dated, ill-configured way." The new plans would allow 230,000 square feet in a more modern, two- or three-level building at the mall's south end.

Sears occupies approximately 200,000 square feet, which does not change under the new plans.

Rouse is currently in the midst of negotiations with the May Co., but Smalley said they "feel comfortable that a transaction can be concluded." Current plans show the May Co. unit occupying about 200,000 square feet in a two- or three-level building at the north end of the mall, where Dillard's is now.

The plans also include building two parking terraces — one between Nordstrom and the May Co. on the north and a second between Dillard's and Sears on the south — and remodeling the food court. Smalley said the existing food court "needs life added to it" and "needs to be more of a people place."

Council members asked about the likelihood of incorporating local vendors as well as adding restaurants, rather than just fast food. Smalley said the area would likely become more of an "eatery" than a food court.

According to Rouse Co.'s figures, Fashion Place Mall now generates sales of $400 per square foot. That number does not change under projected figures, therefore doubling the amount of sales tax generated for the city.

The mall, which council chairman Rush called the "revenue flagship" for Murray, is one of the city's biggest sales tax revenue generators. Smalley helped ease council members' fears, saying any decrease in business during the mall's renovation would be minor.

"We must conduct business. There's investment in there today," Smalley said. He added that it wouldn't be economically viable to alienate customers, and the Rouse Co. will do everything it can to minimize the impact during the construction process.

Rush offered his and fellow council members' support in the renovation, saying it will help make Fashion Place Mall the premier shopping center in the valley. "We're on our way to becoming what could be called the economic powerhouse in the valley and the state."


E-mail: awelling@desnews.com