Saddle Creek Growth Sign of Future for City

By Amos Maki

The Shops of Saddle Creek is in store for a multimillion-dollar makeover and expansion. The growth will add 20,000 square feet.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

The Shops of Saddle Creek is in store for a multimillion-dollar makeover and expansion, a project that will likely be the first of several development dominoes to fall in Germantown.

Texas-based Trademark Property Co., which has operated the retail center since 2011, will expand the portion of the 148,000-square-foot lifestyle center on the southwest side of Poplar Avenue and West Street in Germantown.

“Saddle Creek is one of the most important lifestyle centers in the country,” said Trademark CEO Terry Montesi. “We are very excited to be the steward for the evolution of the iconic property, which will allow us to improve our guest experience and create an even more inviting place.”

Trademark will demolish 20,000 square feet of existing space before building 40,000 square feet of new space, bringing a total of 20,000 square feet of new space.

The project also includes remodeled building exteriors for Saddle Creek South and West with work slated to begin in late 2013 or early 2014. Trademark will also explore ways to update the façade of Saddle Creek North.

The upscale Shops at Saddle Creek was a groundbreaking project when it opened in 1987 and has been widely recognized as the first lifestyle center retail development in the nation.

Memphis-based LRK is handling the design of the expansion and renovation, which will provide much-improved visibility and parking.

The property is currently home to more than 40 fashion and specialty retailers, including Anthropologie, Apple, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Chico’s, Coach, Free People, J. Crew and Madewell.

Montesi said change was important for Saddle Creek to retain its destination status and be poised for future growth.

“Smart owners know retail properties must evolve to stay relevant and around the country you can see when properties don’t evolve they get cannibalized,” he said.

“A lot of specialty retailers are not in Memphis yet and they are interested, and for the property to have the best opportunity to capture those tenants we need to put our best foot forward and the property needs to evolve.”

In addition to the Saddle Creek expansion, at least two more major developments, each with a focus on a mix of uses, are being planned in Germantown.

Atlanta-based Concordia Properties LLC is negotiating with the Arthur family to acquire its land near Saddle Creek.

Concordia is known for developing neighborhood retail and mixed-use projects.

The Arthur property, at the southwest corner of Poplar and West Street behind Saddle Creek South, has been scouted for development for years. Poag & McEwen Lifestyle Centers, the original developer of Saddle Creek, at one point wanted to develop 37 acres of the Arthur estate south of Poplar, but that deal fell apart.

In 2011, Gill Poplar GP, led by managing partner Raymond Gill, bought the 10-acre property housing the historic Nelson-Kirby House for $2.6 million. The property, east of Kirby Parkway and bounded by Poplar on the north and Poplar Pike on the south, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Gill has been considering a major mixed-use development featuring office and retail space.

High income levels, population density and high traffic counts make Germantown an attractive destination for upscale developers and retailers, who have been quicker to rebound from the economic downturn.

“The reality is (developers and retailers) keep coming back to the density and income numbers at the heart of Germantown,” said Danny Buring of The Shopping Center Group LLC. “As the economy started to come back one of the things that has come back strong is the higher-end shopping. When you’ve got a project like Saddle Creek it’s kind of a no-brainer.”

The activity around Saddle Creek fits into Germantown’s plans for mixed-use development and enhancing its western edge.

Germantown hired the Lawrence Group, a North Carolina-based town planning and architectural firm, to develop guidelines for the redevelopment of its western gateway.

The Lawrence Group plan focuses on a 58-acre tract bounded by Poplar Avenue on the north, Poplar Pike on the south, the city’s border on the west and the Nottaway subdivision on the east.

Germantown has been planning its future for years.

In 2005 Germantown adopted its “Vision 2020” plan, the smart growth redevelopment plan that promotes mixed-use development combining commercial, residential and retail space in a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.

Germantown was faced with twin challenges when it developed “Vision 2020.” The city could not expand outside of its borders and the existing zoning mainly prohibited denser, mixed-use development. That meant few options to raise revenue.

The “Vision 2020” smart growth plan laid out a vision for developing the city’s central business district.