January 18, 2015
A hotel, restaurant, skate park and glass-blowing studio all are part of a second life for Central Florida’s retail destinations as malls remake themselves to attract shoppers.
The next 12 months will see the continued reinvention of Artegon Marketplace with new retailers. Orlando Fashion Square mall will add a hotel and restaurant, aiming to make the central Orange County destination a big draw once again.
The malls, in particular, are facing intense pressure in the retail world, experts say.
“The market is splitting into luxury goods at the high end to the high-value offerings at the lower end,” said Steve Kirn, executive director of the University of Florida’s David F. Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research. “People in the middle are struggling, and malls are right in the middle of that.”
Orlando Fashion Square is working to reestablish itself as the preferred shopping destination for the central part of the metropolitan area, said mall manager Brian Smalls.
The mall added a bowling alley and entertainment center in 2014 called Strikeouts. The business also includes a café and arcade, which is part of the mall’s plan to bring in customers with entertainment destinations to complement the retail stores.
This year, the mall plans to start major construction on a new Element by Westin hotel, to be built on the south side between Macy’s and Panera Bread.
“It’s really about making this the place to go for people that live immediately around the mall,” he said. “We have great neighborhoods like College Park and Baldwin Park, and we have to show them that this is their mall.”
A new T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant is part of that plan and a new Noodles and Co. is also under construction on Fashion Square property on Colonial Drive.
Anchor department store Dillard’s changed its strategy at the mall with a clearance center that sells discounted merchandise.
High end retailers are trying to diversify their base of customers, pushing stores such as Dillards to follow the lead of Saks 5th Avenue and Nordstrom rack in opening centers that feature lower prices, Kirn said.
Outside of those properties, Central Florida is gaining a major retail entrant when Academy Sports and Outdoors opens in March.
Construction of a hotel has started at Orlando Fashion Square as the mall seeks new ways to support its retailers. (George Skene, Orlando Sentinel)
Academy is one of the few national big-box chains that doesn’t have a stake in Central Florida, but that will change when the Texas-based sporting goods store opens four stores simultaneously in March, said company spokesman Eric Herrera.
Stores are under construction in the east Orange County Waterford Lakes neighborhood, Lake Mary, Kissimmee and Melbourne. Academy sells sports and fitness equipment along with outdoor items such as guns, fishing gear and barbecues.
The store will go head-to-head with the Dick’s Sporting Goods, another expanding store, and longtime leader Sports Authority.
The revamped Festival Bay Mall opened in November as Artegon Marketplace, but the new approach still has a handful of anchor retailers set to open in the coming months, said Artegon manager Thearon Scurlock.
Artegon puts small craft makers and artists next to big-name draws such as Bass Pro Shops and Ron Jon Surf Shop. And while the shopping center has added dozens of small booths, some big names are coming early in 2015.
“International Hot Glass and Gods & Monsters will be the next to open,” Scurlock said. “And we have a few larger things that we are in the works that we aren’t quite ready to announce yet.”
Gods & Monsters is a 19,000-square-foot comic book store slated to open in the coming months, although Scurlock said there have been delays with permitting.
International Hot Glass is a do-it-yourself glass-blowing studio and retail store that mixes the mall’s desire for art and entertainment.
Radbourne Skatepark is another project set to open at Artegon in the first half of 2015, replacing the old Van’s Skatepark that closed in January 2012. Scurlock said the skate park will be a whole new design.
Artegon will also start hosting a Thursday farmer’s market starting Feb. 5 to connect chefs at south Orlando restaurants to local farmers.
“It’s not going to be like the typical farmers market,” Scurlock said. “This will be more for restaurant chefs and owners that want to find some fresh ingredients for weekend specials.”
Artegon has another 250,000 square feet of retail space to renovate during the second phase of construction on the shopping center. That’s where it plans to add more spaces for artisan retailers, and it has a few more spaces for middle-sized stores.
Scurlock said construction on the second phase of the project should start in the next 90 days.
“All the indicators we’ve had from the existing stores show that their sales are up since we opened Artegon,” said Scurlock, pointing to the movie theatre, Ron Jon and Bass Pro Shops.
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A quick word
Many retailers will spend 2015 trying to bring their brick and mortar and online offerings closer together and turning stores into distribution centers for their web offerings, said Steve Kirn, a professor at the University of Florida.
“What’s happening at retailers is that organizationally, the customer is looking for is a seamless experience at all levels. We used to have Web people separated from the store people, but now everything needs to work together.”
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