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Wednesday, November 03, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Alderwood expansion aims to lure the Village people
Just across the street lie classic examples of the old Lynnwood: Payless ShoeSource and Pro Nails in a strip mall to the north, Discount Fabrics and Supercuts in a retail block to the east.
But here in the new world of Alderwood, the point isn't paying less or appealing to a coupon-clipping customer base.
Tomorrow marks the much-heralded opening of The Village, an upscale outdoor mall that broke ground in October 2003 outside Alderwood's old Nordstrom store. With it, Alderwood hopes to tap into a new stream of revenue: the retail dollars that higher-income Snohomish County residents now spend in Seattle and Bellevue.
Lynnwood hopes so, too. Last year, Alderwood mall poured about $2.7 million worth of sales-tax revenue into city coffers, city Finance Director Mike Bailey said. Using conservative assumptions, the city projects The Village will generate an additional $500,000 a year in municipal sales taxes, he said.
With nearly 1.4 million square feet of retail space, Alderwood is now the state's biggest mall and, with 4,000 workers in administrative offices and stores, Snohomish County's second-largest private employer.
Its latest addition is reminiscent of University Village in Seattle, with storefronts of brick and stucco rising along pedestrian avenues adorned with stone fountains and quaint street lamps. All but eight of its 43 spaces will open tomorrow.
And notice the new "Alderwood" signs: Aspiring to be more than a mall, the complex now is a "lifestyle center," and its managers want to banish the m-word from your vocabulary.
It's a "true hybrid," General Manager Jerry Alder said, speaking of a distinctive combination of indoor and outdoor stores, stand-alone restaurants, parking garages and a 16-screen theater complex under construction.
Alder declined comment on the cost, but city records indicate Alderwood's overhaul expenses have topped $110 million.
The latest expansion is aimed at a more well-heeled shopping crowd, with clothing stores such as Chico's and Christopher & Banks and housewares dealers Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn and Eddie Bauer Home. REI is moving its Snohomish County store from 196th Street Southwest into one of The Village's anchor spots.
Alder is coy about his own expectations. The Village's 165,000 square feet of new retail space increased the overall mall's size by 10 percent, he said. The mall's existing spaces bring in annual sales of $400 to $500 per square foot, he said, but he declined to guess how much the new, pricier stores might generate.
If they perform at the same level as the existing mall stores, that will equate to about $630,000 a year in additional sales-tax revenue for the city.
"It's such a crystal ball," Alder said, when asked about his company's hopes for the renovation.
Though the new stores might draw shoppers from a wider geographic area, the city and Alderwood simply hope the mall's existing customer base will spend more money locally.
"Lynnwood and Snohomish County lose an incredible amount of sales-tax leakage to King County because goods and merchandise can't be purchased here. I've heard up to 20 percent of retail sales leave," said David Kleitsch, Lynnwood's city's economic-development director.
Getting back on its feet
The rest of the county is watching, too.
The mall expansion is one of the most visible symbols of the county's recovery from the recent recession, said Jean Hales, the president of the South Snohomish County Chamber of Commerce.
"It's the flagship for what's happening in this area," she said. "It's a visible representation that things are getting better."
Chicago-based General Growth Properties bought Alderwood in 1999 after managing it for two years. By 2002, the company's vision began to unfold, with the razing of the former Lamonts store. Its replacement, a 144,000-square-foot Nordstrom, opened in September 2003.
Two parking garages opened in 2003, adding 1,500 spaces for a total of 6,800. Last year also saw the addition of The Terraces, an outdoor plaza with an assortment of restaurants some still under construction on the mall's south side. Nearby is a mammoth skeleton of steel, the beginning of a 16-screen Loews Theatres complex set to open early next year.
Mitigation for the project, which was projected to attract an additional 1,600 cars during the Saturday peak period, included re-striping a half-mile stretch of Alderwood Mall Parkway to create an additional lane, installing traffic signals at the mall's north and east entrances, and redesigning the mall entry at 188th Street Southwest.
Alder said he couldn't tally the total mitigation costs. But Lynnwood said those costs include $6 million the mall contributed to the new 196th Street Southwest freeway interchange built several years ago, plus about $300,000 spent on high-tech traffic signals that are connected to the city's computerized grid.
Alderwood and the city hope to train shoppers to enter the mall from the west, on 188th Street Southwest, to smooth traffic flows in the surrounding area. That's the easiest way to access the two new parking garages.
With the mitigation work complete, the city doesn't expect new traffic generated by The Village to affect other neighborhoods or the city center. The shopping public, on the other hand, could see a change, said Bill Franz, the city's public-works director.
"We're all real interested to see how it goes down there," Franz said. "It's a double-edged sword: The more successful it is, the more traffic there will be."
Teens consider mall trendy
Anthony Bader sells high-end home-fitness machines in a strip mall near The Village at the busy corner of Alderwood Mall Parkway and 184th Street Southwest. His store, Fitness Showcase, lies within a half-mile of three other fitness shops, so he's keenly aware of the importance of location and parking.
He recently moved his store from another nearby strip mall, on Alderwood's south side just a few hundred yards from a Bon-Macy's entrance. His parking often was gobbled up by shoppers more interested in sweaters and slacks than stair climbers. Now he's attracting two more browsers per day, which could equate to five more sales worth about $15,000 per month.
"It's all about driving by, so we expect more people to see us here," Bader said.
Teens are excited, too, flocking to what they consider a trendy place to work and hang out. The new stores, directly across the street from Lynnwood High School, are expected to generate about 1,500 full- and part-time retail and restaurant jobs.
Justin Leonard, his brother Joseph Leonard and their friend Levi Camacho late last month snagged a table at Alderwood's food court and busily filled out eight job applications apiece.
The three recent grads of Mukilteo's Kamiak High said the mall offers a fun place to work with people their own age. There seem to be other perks, too: "Girls a lot of girls," Justin Leonard interjected.
Camacho said Alderwood's face-lift gives it an advantage over its competition.
"It's more of a welcoming environment than the Everett Mall," he said. "That's an old, out-of-date mall."
Catering to its audience
Then there's that matter of city image.
Lynnwood is on the verge of launching a 20-year downtown redevelopment plan, with the goal of being the state's next Bellevue with high-rise offices, public parks and plazas and a winding, retail-lined pedestrian promenade. The 300-acre City Center would extend to the southwest corner of Alderwood; planners envision a trolley someday carrying downtown office workers to the mall for lunchtime shopping breaks.
"We have an image of being a strip-mall city, and I think [the expanded Alderwood and the City Center] will go a long way toward taking away that image. They are mutually beneficial to each other," said Jim Cutts, the city's community-development director.
Malls traditionally are assumed to attract shoppers from a seven-mile radius. In Alderwood's case, that circle extends from north of Everett Mall and south into Shoreline, and along Interstate 405 into Woodinville.
Kirkland resident Alice Whitaker, a recent Alderwood visitor, lives within Bellevue Square's radius. She predicts the new upscale shops will appeal to a wider region of shoppers who have time and money to spend.
"If I come over here shopping for something in particular, I'll go through pretty much the whole mall," she said, nibbling on a brownie outside Nordstrom's new espresso bar.
In 2000, the population within Alderwood's circle was estimated at about 479,000, said Kleitsch, Lynnwood's economic-development director.
"That equates to $4.3 billion in annual retail sales spent somewhere," he said.
By 2020, population growth within those portions of King and Snohomish counties is expected to increase that spending power to $5.5 billion, he said.
"We're talking about capturing as much of that as we can," Kleitsch said.
In reality, Alderwood's customer base stretches across the Canadian border.
A promotional campaign last year enticing Canadians to visit Snohomish County resulted in 2,189 nights booked at Lynnwood hotels, said Mary Monroe, the city's tourism manager. The average "travel party," usually a family, was 3.8 people, she said.
"We just finished some research they are coming to shop, especially during the Christmas holidays," she said. "They are definitely big fans of Alderwood Mall. It's the first Nordstrom from across the border."
Donna Price, a Lynnwood resident and Bon-Macy's clerk, expects the mall's additions to expand Alderwood's regional appeal.
"It's going to increase with all of the higher-end stores," she said. "It's time we got a mall like this."
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