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VOL. 127 | NO. 135 | Thursday, July 12, 2012

Retail Transformation

Loeb updates two East Memphis properties

By Sarah Baker

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Two of Loeb Properties Inc.’s larger retail centers in East Memphis are in the midst of major transformations.

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is modernizing its exterior colors. The work goes along with the trend of other improvements taking place at Park Place Centre.  

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

Park Place Centre – the upscale 175,000-square-foot center at Park Avenue and Ridgeway Road that Loeb acquired from Belz Enterprises Inc. for $10.3 million in late 2010 – has completed $60,000 in improvements, including new monument signage, ongoing tenant improvements, revamped landscape and a new music system.

“Some of it is just making it our own,” said Tom Hayes, Loeb vice president of construction. “Some of it is just having new owners look at it with fresh eyes.”

To Hayes, a graduate of Memphis College of Art, the monument sign that bookends the Memphis University School sign is a big win in branding the center. It’s situated at a heavily trafficked intersection that has been the target of cluttered political signs over the years.

“I’m very visually oriented. This for me just eliminates that visual mess from my world,” Hayes said. “We wanted new identification. We wanted it to be real and permanent; we didn’t want it to be flashy and commercial. It’s not made out of metal and vinyl, it’s made out of stone and limestone.”

Park Place’s other two signs, which are pylon, have been enhanced with stone accents to the base of each. Loeb is in the process of upgrading the signs with new vinyl, as well as painting both “just to freshen them up.”

Other improvements to Park Place include First Tennessee Bank, one of the outparcel occupiers that is adding several new drive-thru lanes to the north side of its existing building. The Memphis-based bank is also adding stone to its building, which underscores the center’s “fresh looking updates.”

And although it’s a national move and wasn’t spurred by Loeb, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is also modernizing its exterior colors.

Loeb has also revamped the center’s landscape in areas that were once shaded out by trees.

“Some (landscaping) was the wrong planting,” Hayes said. “We’ve done a fair amount of general maintenance and kind of fixing-up work at the center.”

In addition, Loeb recently added an outdoor “Muzak” system to Park Place. It’s an added perk the local commercial real estate firm has witnessed in other centers and seems to be well received by shoppers.

“When you have music as you walk down the sidewalks … it’s not really quantifiable, but people just like it,” Hayes said. “They feel it’s more personal, cozy or inviting – it’s not as stark as dealing with just the sidewalk and the plants and the asphalt. It kind of fills in and gives a better experience.”

Park Place is 91 percent occupied by office and retail tenants such as Jason’s Deli, Amerigo Italian Restaurant, Stash Inc., I.O. Metro and Hallmark.

Plans on the horizon for Park Place include face-lifts to the common lobby area to the left of Jason’s.

“(We have) in our minds a list of what works and doesn’t work, what to change, how to change the image, how to fix it, what’s broken, what’s not broken,” Hayes said. “That’s just kind of ongoing.”

Loeb owns dozens of retail centers across the city. Including single-tenant buildings, the firm owns more than 100.

Another one of Loeb’s larger East Memphis centers in transition is Yorkshire Square at Quince Road and Interstate 240. New retail leases in the 52,365-square-foot center include Neil’s Bar, taking over the space that was once occupied by Whole Hog Café.

Neil’s operated at 1835 Madison Ave. in Midtown for nearly 20 years and has recently relocated to Yorkshire. The restaurant/bar is in the midst of building a patio at its new location, which is about two-thirds complete.

“(Neil) has quite a following and a lot of them are music-based people that will drive to that destination,” Hayes said. “He said they would and it seems to be happening.”

Las Delicias Mexican Bar and Grill will also soon fill the space that formerly housed Thyme Bistro and Jarrett’s.

Loeb acquired Yorkshire Square in 1996 and made renovations in 2007. The center is 83 percent occupied.

Hayes said Yorkshire Square has been a property that Loeb has had to “revamp periodically.”

“It’s kind of cycled on us for some several years where it kind of gets all filled up and gets happy and then we have some problems with it and kind of have to revamp it,” Hayes said. “It’s unique in that it’s a neighborhood center, but it’s quite large just to tuck in a very small neighborhood. The good thing about it is it’s in East Memphis, which is really important in commercial real estate. It’s been renovated a couple of times; it’s a good-looking center now.”

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