The professional services and investment management company that took over leasing and management of Liberty Center several months ago is working to complete two high-profile deals amid increased commercial interest.
JLL is “much more active” when it comes to leasing inquiries than the prior leasing team under Liberty Center’s developer, Steiner + Associates, according to Giorgio Karras, one of three JLL vice presidents tasked with handling retail leasing at the center.
“We’re actively talking to double the amount of people,” Karras told this news outlet. “We’re very happy with the activity.”
That activity includes JLL being in the midst of negotiating a lease with a new-to-market, family entertainment attraction, one that would fill approximately 40,000 square feet left vacant for development at The Foundry, Liberty Center’s indoor shopping mall, he said.
Karras said he could not yet close the name or nature of the attraction.
Also under negotiation is a lease for an internationally known retail tenant to replace The Gap, a store that is scheduled to close later this month as part of its national plan to shut down 200 stores following poor earnings reports.
“They’re a retail tenant that has been performing very, very well from a stock perspective,” Karras said.
JLL Retail’s national mall group is looking at numerous opportunities to build momentum at the center, which opened in October 2015.
“Helping bolster our daytime population would greatly help … because our evenings are awesome,” Karras said.
That could include adding more activities because a trick-or-treat event around The Foundry helped increase business by 25 percent for tenants in Liberty Center’s Food Court, he said.
“Those are things that we’re trying to say ‘OK, this is what the center needs,’ and it takes time,” Karras said. “Steiner did a wonderful job leasing this thing up, (and) we’re not done yet.”
To that end, JLL is overhauling marketing of Liberty Center, redesigning its website and revamping all leasing material.
JLL also is working to determine the extent of other non-leasing changes that will take place this year, included adding seating and dining areas throughout the property.
“For instance, you go down to the park side over by the hotel and there’s not a lot of options to sit down, hang out,” Karras said. “The whole thought here is we want to make this property welcoming, we don’t want people to feel like “I’m going to Liberty, but there’s nowhere to hang out.’”
Liberty Center has “a very strong income demographic” and is ideally located just off Interstate 75 between Cincinnati and Dayton, something that helps it draw from both areas, Karras said.
Expected to help fuel growth for Liberty Center is the new iFLY Cincinnati, the indoor-skydiving attraction’s first Ohio location. Megen Construction is slated next week to “top out” the 5,175-square-foot project by placing one of the final steel beams ahead of a planned spring opening.
Also attracting shoppers are several new tenants introduced in the past year, including french pastries bakery Le Macaron, home-décor retailer Burlap & Birch; women’s clothing store Sorella Boutique; jewelry and chic accessories retailer Claire’s and Sugar & Spice Spa/Event Center.
It’s also set to soon welcome a new location of Molly’s Cupcakes, which was winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars and named one of the 10 Best Cupcake Bakeries in the County by USA Today. It has stores in Chicago, New York and Iowa City.
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