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Old Posted May 13, 2009, 1:38 PM
sirkingwilliam's Avatar
sirkingwilliam sirkingwilliam is offline
Loving SA 365 days a year
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: San Antonio
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Grand plans for Rivercenter Mall

Grand plans for Rivercenter Mall

In five years, Rivercenter Mall could complete a metamorphosis from typical mall to part-typical mall, part-entertainment/fine dining complex.

"This is not what you would call a soccer mom mall," said Chris Oviatt, the mall's general manager. "That's not our customer."

What is the mall's customer is the downtown visitor, whether that be tourists or conventioneers. Oviatt said the ratio is nearly 3 to 1 (visitor to local, respectively).

"We wouldn't survive without the visitor industry," he said.

The plan is to retain some retail, but to offer more restaurants, nightclubs and other entertainment-oriented options in the next five years.

Intentions to turn the old Joske's building into a multi-entertainment hot spot was first reported in the Express-News last June. I asked Oviatt, "Why haven't we heard anything since?" He said the major pieces needed to be in place before an announcement could be made.

Though he didn't name names, Oviatt said they are looking to lease the third and fourth floors as a history museum.

He said a certain "world-renowned" musician was interested in investing in the museum. When I asked, "Phil Collins?", he smiled: "You can speculate. I can't confirm." Collins, as you may or may not know, is a huge Alamo buff, and even attended the Dawn at the Alamo ceremony on March 6 earlier this year.

Oviatt said they're looking for multi-entertainment-style tenants, somewhere in the vein of Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Cafes or Lucky Strike, the bowling/lounge chain. Oviatt threw those names out, but didn't confirm they had signed on.

These types of venues — it seems — offer restaurant-quality food, a nightlife scene and a third component, whether that be live music, bowling, pool, etc.

All of this will be accomplished with a respect for the Joske's building's history.

"We embrace the fact that the historic foundation needs to be retained," Oviatt said.

He added that once the major players are in place, they will announce the plans, but that it will still be a year to 18 months before "we can start swinging hammers," he said.

Much of the third and fourth floors of the Joske's building has been vacant since Dillard's bought the building in 1987. Dillard's only occupied 131,000 square feet of the building's overall 500,000.

"We have plenty of room to work with," Oviatt said.

Fogo de Cháo, a Brazilian steakhouse that serves its meat carved tableside straight from the skewer, is scheduled to open early- to mid-August, street-level on the river near the mall's lagoon area, at Commerce Street.

Oviatt said a high-end nightcluby tenant that "people will be excited about" has committed to the space under Fogo, but added that announcing said tenant depends on a commitment of another across the river.

Construction on that side — the west side of the river — hasn't yet begun, but, when completed, there will be space for three additional restaurants. Local architecture firm S.A. Partnership is at the helm.

The mall is owned by New York-based Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp., whose most notable properties include several in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. Ashkenazy purchased the mall in 2005, and the old Joske's last year.

Oviatt makes no bones about Ashkenazy's love affair with out-of-towners (after all, that is their customer), but he does hope San Antonians respond to the new restaurants, just as locals have responded to similar, Loop 1604 growth.

"Food caters to both a visitor and a local," he said. "We are aware that many San Antonians are not accustomed to regularly visiting downtown. . . We would love to see that change."
Anyone want to speculate on what the high-end nightcluby tenant is?
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