By Jeff Gallatin
Westfield Great Northern Mall’s ongoing face-lifts have now reached the corporate level.
Officials at the Westfield Group announced plans last week to sell seven shopping center malls to Starwood Capital Group for $1.64 billion. Westfield Great Northern Mall is included in the deal along with two other Ohio malls, Belden Village in Canton and Franklin Park in Toledo. The other four malls include two in California, one in Washington state and one in Indiana. Another branch of the Starwood group acquired Southpark Mall in Strongsville last year.
The Great Northern Mall property has been undergoing a series of upgrades in the last two to three years. A new, more contemporary food court was completed last year. In addition, the old food court area as well as mall and other white-collar businesses were demolished earlier this year to get underway previously announced plans to put in a 10-screen Regal Cinemas theater complex. The theaters will contain state-of-the-art sound and visual equipment. A public display which allows patrons to sit in comfortable seats and view upcoming movie previews has been in the mall’s center court area for several months. The display highlights the scheduled opening of the theater complex in December.
In addition to the theaters, two restaurants, The Rail and Mama Fu’s, will be going into the complex. A business, Le Grand Orchid, a salon and spa that also will sell related beauty products, has also been announced as going into the complex. More retail space construction is also underway near the J.C. Penney anchor store at its entrance near the center of the mall complex.
North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy said the mall will continue to be a positive part of the community with the change.
“I appreciate Westfield and all they’ve done for the city,” he said. “They’ve made a lot of great renovations on my watch and are active in the community. I’m looking forward to working with Starwood in the future. It’s great that they are keeping the same great management team
with (mall general manager) Mike Walsh and (marketing director) Annie Dorsey, who’ve done so many good things and are excellent to work with. I would expect our strong relationship to continue and look forward to the finish of the latest renovations at the mall.”
Westfield Group Chairman Peter Lowy said in a statement the deal will benefit the group.
“The announcement continues the implementation of our strategic plan which positions WD (Westfield Development) to generate greater shareholder value,” he said. “We are focused on redeploying our capital into superior retail destinations in major cities through divesting non-core assets and introducing joint venture partners into our high quality portfolio of assets.”
Starwood officials could not be reached for comment, but releases indicated that the series of renovations helped make the deal more attractive.
In the deal, Starwood will own and manage the majority interest in the different malls, with Westfield retaining a 10 percent common equity interest. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.