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McClatchy-Tribune  08/26/2014 6:04 AM ET
NORTHTOWN'S NEW LOOK [The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash. :: ]

Aug. 26--The owners of Spokane's NorthTown Mall are renovating the north-side façade as part of the shopping center's makeover.

Built in the 1950s, then renovated several times since, the city's oldest shopping mall has looked dingy and unappealing to visitors driving south along Division Street.

"It's not been our best look," said John Shasky, the mall's senior general manager.

Starting Monday and continuing all week, workers have begun demolition of the outer north wall in between the mall's two anchor tenants along Queen Avenue -- Kohl's on the east and Macy's on the west.

Workers will tear down the stone, two-level wall stretching 410 feet between the two stores. Macy's and Kohl's front walls will not change.

Once the north wall comes down, large open spaces inside the mall will be visible, showing interior demolition to that area that began earlier this year, Shasky said.

The next stage will be adding new walls extending from Kohl's and Macy's toward the middle of the block. Those walls will feature windows and lighting more appealing to shoppers.

The central area of the north wall will be pushed back about 150 feet, Shasky said.

That will create a middle-recessed area that General Growth Properties calls a parkade and streetscape. The design will encourage pedestrian traffic along Queen and into the mall, Shasky said.

Deals are afoot to land three new restaurants along the north side, he added.

GGP will not disclose the cost of the mall renovations. The company owns the Spokane Valley Mall as well.

Work began two years ago by relocating 10 stores. Four others chose to move from the mall, Shasky said.

"We ended up with a perception problem," Shasky said. Other tenants and visitors saw the dark, shuttered north side of the mall and wondered if the company was unwilling to spend money to bring in new tenants.

"We had plans but we didn't have them all nailed down. We couldn't really say what exactly was happening because it was still being planned," he said.

Over the weekend workers installed interior barricades to keep customers from the construction area. Outdoor site fences have also gone up as demolition crews started tearing down the façade.

Shasky said the number of new tenants taking the transformed areas will depend on how much space they need. It could be four, or it could be as many as 10, Shasky said.

Tenants won't be able to move into new spaces until the second quarter of 2015. "But we will get back some of the outdoor parking spaces no later than Black Friday," he said. "Late in the year, it's all about shopping for the holidays," he said.

Commercial broker Chris Bornhoft said the move to dress up NorthTown Mall is a great move by its owner.

"New, fresh retail tenants and renovations will bring life and excitement to their property," said Bornhoft, who works with Windermere Realty in Spokane.

He said the facelift near the intersection of Queen and Division makes sense, since it's one of the busiest corners for traffic in the city.

The last two major renovations at the mall were in 1990 and 2000.

In 1990, then-owner Sabey Corp. made significant additions that led to new tenants including J.C. Penney, Emporium and Mervyn's. Within three years, the Bon Marche moved in as well; in 2005 that store was renamed Macy's.

The 1990 expansion, estimated to have cost more than $110 million, also added the two-level parking garage and the interior food court.

In 2000, the expansion led to new spaces for Barnes & Noble and Regal Cinemas.

The food court won't go through major changes other than cosmetic effects, Shasky said.

Interior cosmetic work also is planned across the mall, including new paint, lighting and improved signage. "We want to make it easier for people to know exactly where they are. If you don't come here that often, you can get turned around easily."

In 2001, NorthTown Mall had nearly 150 commercial tenants. Today the mall has just over 100, Shasky said.

 

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