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Old Posted Jan 25, 2007, 6:22 AM
tmathis tmathis is offline
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Rivercenter Mall to begin major renovation this year. - Express News

Web Posted: 01/24/2007 11:15 PM CST

Melissa S. Monroe
Express-News Business Writer

Smack dab in tourist territory, Rivercenter is not typically seen as a fashion mall, but officials at the downtown shopping center say its sales make it one of the top retail destinations in San Antonio.

For 2006, the mall averaged $436 in sales per square foot, making it the city’s third-best mall behind North Star Mall and The Shops at La Cantera, according to Rivercenter officials. Just two years ago, the tourist mall was tracking about $400 per square foot.

‘‘At Rivercenter, there are a lot of national brands and not just tourist stuff,’‘ said Rivercenter marketing director Jennifer Green. ‘‘We only have really three stores that are Texas-oriented and only one is San Antonio-oriented.’‘

In 2005, the International Council of Shopping Centers said malls averaged $399 in sales per square foot in the South and $392 per square foot across the United States.

Rivercenter is only about half the size of its rivals in San Antonio, with 560,000 square feet of retail space not including the Marriott Rivercenter hotel. It features Dillard’s, Macy’s, and IMAX and AMC theaters.

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Despite its size, the mall — connected to the River Walk and near the Alamo — attracts many visiting families and conventioneers. The 19-year-old mall lures 11 million visitors annually.

The jump in sales at Rivercenter, Green said, coincided with the 2005 arrival of a new owner, New York-based Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp., which is changing some tenants and plans renovations. Green said the owner plans to give the mall a multimillion-dollar new look with a ‘‘re-grand opening’‘ planned for 2008.

So far, about 20 percent of the mall’s 115 stores have changed, expanded or renovated since late 2005. New stores include The Body Shop, the Discovery Channel and Zales.

In spite of some local residents’ perceptions that the mall caters too much to tourists, Green said the renovation plan ‘‘is a sign of a healthy shopping center.’‘

This year, the mall will get new signs, a paint job, upgrades to its lagoon area and four restaurants that will be new to San Antonio. Most of the major construction was supposed to start last fall but was pushed back to later this year.

Ashkenazy purchased the four-level property at 849 E. Commerce St. in 2005 and has slowly been making changes, including raising prices in the parking garage, adding retail kiosks and increasing rent for some merchants.

Rivercenter’s sales spike is probably due to the recent changes, said Patrice Duker, a spokeswoman for the Council of Shopping Centers.

‘‘Something is being done right at that center,’‘ she said. ‘‘The change and revitalization is why folks are coming to the center. That’s a nice increase.’‘

But even though business is brisk, some retailers say local residents don’t frequent the mall because parking prices are too high.

‘‘One time people got two free hours of parking and the (third) hour was only $1,’‘ said Todd Myers, general manager of Hooters on the River Walk. ‘‘I think the mall saw an opportunity to make a little money because nearby construction closed a lot of parking garages. I would hope they would revisit and go back to two hours free.’‘

Last edited by tmathis; Jan 25, 2007 at 9:59 PM.
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