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Developer courting upscale retailers

John Seelmeyer

Northern Nevada probably will learn soon about the upscale retailers that have decided to locate in a major new shopping center at Mount Rose Highway and Virginia Street.

“The leasing is going very well,” says David Silverstein, a principal in Bayer Properties Inc., the Birmingham, Ala., company developing the property.

He said in an interview that Bayer Properties expects in the near future to announce “a significant number” of leases that have been signed at the center to be known as The Summit.

Last month, the company said it signed a letter of intent with Wild Oats Market Inc.

for a store at the south- Reno center.

While Bayer Properties doesn’t disclose whom it’s talking with, the company’s other Summit centers in Birmingham and Louisville, Ky., are home to retailers such as Williams- Sonoma, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barnes & Noble, The Gap, Cheesecake Factory and Talbots.

As it makes presentations to potential tenants, Bayer Properties emphasizes its belief that the Reno market doesn’t have nearly enough upscale retail.

A study commissioned by Bayer and completed by Realty Development Research Inc.

of Northbrook, Ill., reports that northern Nevada is home to about 453,000 square feet of traditional department store space the Macy’s location at Meadowood Mall and the Gottschalk’s stores in Reno and Carson City.

That amounts to 0.9 square foot of department store space per capita, the study found, compared to the 1.5 square feet per capita that is considered optimal.

“At this level, the Reno metropolitan region is understored for better quality retailing,” the study says.

The Summit is expected to total about 700,000 to 750,000 square feet, Silverstein said.

By comparison, Meadowood Mall is about 1 million square feet.

Silverstein said the company expects the center to be under construction this summer with opening in late 2005.

Bayer Properties hasn’t yet exercised its option to purchase the 100-acre site.

The Summit is proposed as the centerpiece of a 180-acre mixed-use development.

Silverstein said the company hasn’t nailed down plans for other uses.

Like the company’s other Summit centers, the Reno development will be an open-air center with extensive landscaping and a careful eye toward architectural appeal.

The south-Reno location, which already draws heavy traffic, will become even more strategic as the state continues with its plans to extend the U.S.

395 freeway from Mount Rose Highway to the Washoe Valley.

Bayer Properties’ other Summit centers have succeeded in drawing upscale shoppers.

The company says customers at The Summit locations stay an average of 111 minutes per visit that’s 52 percent longer than they do at a regional mall and the average household income for a shopper at The Summit is $76,000 compared to $52,300 for mall shoppers.

In the trade area for the center which Bayer defines as the region stretching from Sparks to South Lake Tahoe about 26 percent of the households earn $75,000 or more annually.

The market for upscale retailing gets further power, Bayer says, from the 5 million visitors who come to the region each year for recreation and gaming.

Privately held Bayer Properties also is developing The Summit centers at Fort Collins, Colo., and Lehigh Valley, Pa.

The 20-year company is involved in leasing and management as well as development.

Most of its previous projects have been in the Birmingham area.