By Jeff Gallatin
The Westfield Group’s sale of eight shopping centers in the United States – including SouthPark Mall in Strongsville – for $1.15 billion doesn’t affect Westfield Great Northern Mall, officials said.
After the April 18 announcement, officials said Starwood Capital Group will own the majority interest in seven malls – including SouthPark – while Eastland, a Covina, Calif., facility, is being sold separately.
Mike Walsh, the general manager for Great Northern, said he isn’t aware of any possible change in status for his mall as a result of the moves by Westfield corporate officials.
“It doesn’t have any affect on us that I know of,” he said.
Prior to coming to Great Northern a few months ago, Walsh was an assistant, then interim general manager, at SouthPark. Walsh replaced Kurt Reddick at Great Northern, who then took the general manager post at SouthPark.
“I wish them well,” Walsh said.
With a new dining court having opened in late 2011 and plans for a 10-screen movie theater complex being announced shortly afterward, Walsh said he can understand why people in the surrounding community would want to know if there are other plans for Great Northern as well.
“It’s a logical concern, but our understanding is we are still moving ahead with our plans for the theater complex,” he said. “We hope to have an announcement on that within the next few weeks.”
Several new businesses have opened in Great Northern since the beginning of 2012, and other businesses – including all the ones in the old food court area where the theater complex is slated to be located – have relocated to other spots in the mall itself.
North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy said he sees the sale as a good thing.
“We’ve been talking to Westfield for a few months and they’ve indicated that Southpark might be sold,” Kennedy said. “I see this as good for Westfield. They’ve been working on Great Northern for awhile. This means they can concentrate even more on Great Northern, which we like. I was there Sunday and I couldn’t find a parking place, so that must mean business is getting pretty good.”
Paul Barker, chairman of North Olmsted City Council’s Finance Committee, said he appreciates the mall being a long-term part of North Olmsted.
“Great Northern has been a great business partner for the city for many years,” Barker said. “First with DeBartolo, then when Westfield bought it. It brings a lot to the community. We’re glad that it’s been working on expanding and having a lot of work going on. It means a lot that it’s willing to invest in the city and remain a long-term part of the community. We really appreciate it.”
Westfield corporate officials said the moves are part of a long-term strategic plan.
“Today’s announcement represents a further step in our strategic plan to increase return on equity and long term earnings growth,” Peter Lowy, co-chief executive officer,Westfield Group, said in a news release April 18.
“We have previously flagged the potential divestment of non-core assets in the U.S. and this transaction is an important step in the repositioning of our portfolio to major retail assets with strong franchise characteristics.”
Westfield officials said the retail centers have aggregate sales per square foot of $373 and were 93.8 percent leased as of Dec. 31, 2011, excluding the Metreon facility in San Francisco, which is currently being redeveloped with a new Target store and scheduled to open in the fall of 2012.