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Bet on Macy's, brokers assert

By CHUIN-WEI YAP
Published February 8, 2007


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WESLEY CHAPEL - For nearly two years, the name of the third anchor tenant at the Wiregrass mall has been shrouded in mystery.

In 2005, Dillard's and JCPenney announced that they were joining the $105-million Shops at Wiregrass.

A third and final anchor was on the way, and guessing its identity became something of a spectator sport among local industry watchers.

Was it Kohl's? Sears? Macy's?

"We knew they had a triple deal with soft-goods merchants," said Patrick Berman, retail director at Tampa's Cushman and Wakefield brokerage. "As a betting man, I'd say Macy's is going to Wiregrass."

On Wednesday, a broker at Grubb & Ellis Commercial Florida, the Tampa branch of a 49-year-old national real estate powerhouse, all but backed Berman's wager.

At the firm's commercial real estate forecast luncheon in Tampa, an annual gathering of government and private sector officials, Michelle Seifert said the third tenant is Macy's.

Seifert said the deal isn't officially announced yet, but the information came from her market research.

Almost as soon as Seifert spoke, Macy's and Wiregrass officials went into hard-to-get mode.

"I can't confirm Macy's right now," said John Dowd, the Goodman Co.'s senior vice president, who is helping to develop the Shops at Wiregrass. "Until the deals are fully executed, we just can't confirm it."

Macy's has not reached a definitive decision yet, said Melissa Goff, a spokeswoman for the store.

But on Tuesday, a Macy's senior executive vice president, Ertugrul Tuzcu, told a conference in Chicago that the chain is turning to suburban and nonmetro areas for growth.

Even Wiregrass' rivals are laying their money on Macy's joining the proposed development at Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and State Road 56.

"It doesn't surprise me," said David Conn, of CB Richard Ellis, who's handling tenancies at Cypress Creek Town Center. "That Wiregrass project is going the department store route."

Berman added the logic of a pundit to the debate:

Sears is still lurching through its merger with Kmart and is not doing much expansion currently. That leaves Kohl's or Macy's as the usual suspects. Macy's is a likelier suspect, since its average 100,000-square-foot size puts it more in line with Dillard's and JCPenney, Berman said.

Property investment brochures and site plans have shown other tenants lining up to join Cypress Creek Town Center, including Costco, Target, Kohl's and Linens-N-Things. Conn said the mall was 65 percent leased.

If Macy's joins the Shops at Wiregrass, it would raise more questions about the future of University Mall in Tampa.

In April 2005, JCPenney left that mall to set up at Wiregrass. Dillard's, an existing anchor at University Mall, announced a month later that it was also taking up space at Wiregrass.

Macy's decision would complete the trio of northward expansions to newer digs, though no one has said Dillard's or Macy's intends to close its University Mall outlet.

In mid 2006, owner Glimcher Realty Trust put University Mall on the block.

No buyer has stepped up yet, though Glimcher officials say there is interest from two unidentified "institutional" buyers.

Times staff writers James Thorner and Mark Albright contributed to this report. Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at cyap@sptimes.com.

[Last modified February 7, 2007, 23:17:01]


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