Vancouver Mall gets a new owner, old name

In $1.1 billion deal, shopping center is again Vancouver Mall

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian Business Editor

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A Dallas real estate investment company has purchased the Westfield Vancouver mall and four other U.S. malls owned by Australia-based Westfield Corp., the investment company said Friday, in a deal valued at $1.1 billion.

New owner Centennial Real Estate Co. immediately restored the shopping center’s original name of Vancouver Mall. It said existing on-site management teams will continue to operate the properties under its direction. The transaction closed on Friday, and by day’s end, the name Westfield had already been removed from the mall’s website and Facebook page.

Centennial was joined in the purchase of Vancouver mall and four other malls in California, Illinois, and Connecticut by USAA Real Estate of San Antonio and Montgomery Street Partners of San Francisco. Individual purchase prices for each mall were not disclosed.

The news was not entirely a surprise. Last summer, The Columbian reported on the industry publication Real Estate Alert’s disclosure that USAA Real Estate, a unit of San Antonio insurer USAA, was purchasing large stakes in the five malls with partners Montgomery Street Partners of San Francisco and Centennial Real Estate. That report did not indicate that Centennial would operate the malls, and negotiations took many more months to complete.

Located just west of Interstate 205 at state Highway 500, Vancouver Mall was built in 1977 and has undergone numerous ownership changes, renovations and changes in retail offerings. It was acquired in 1994 by Westfield America Inc., and in 1998 it was renamed “Westfield Shoppingtown Vancouver Mall,” at which time the mall had 146 stores in 870,000 square feet of space. “Shoppingtown” was dropped from the name in September 2005, making it the Westfield Vancouver mall. The shopping center now has 125 stores and 36 retail kiosks operating in about 850,000 square feet, making it by far the largest retail center in Clark County.

Westfield Vancouver suffered a severe blow a year ago with the closure of Nordstrom, one of its flagship stores. Gold’s Gym is renovating one floor of the former Nordstrom space and is expected to open next year. The clothing retailer H&M has been identified as a possible tenant for the other floor of the former Nordstrom.

Centennial’s acquisition also included Connecticut Post Mall in Milford, Conn.; Main Place Mall in Santa Ana, Calif.; Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills, Ill.; and Fox Valley Mall in Aurora, Ill. The five malls contain a total of more than 6 million square feet of retail space with an average occupancy of more than 97 percent, the company said.

Centennial previously owned two malls, one each in Pueblo, Colo. and Chico, Calif.; and six neighborhood shopping centers, five of which are in Texas and one in Carlsbad, Calif.

The acquisition “advances Centennial’s promise to reinvest in and revitalize U.S. retail hubs and surrounding communities,” the company said in a news release. “Each property will be evaluated to ensure that it is meeting the wants and needs of each local market and the shoppers it serves.”

U.S. shopping malls are struggling to maintain relevance in the face of competition from online shopping outlets as well as lower cost retailers such as Wal-Mart at one end of the spectrum and more upscale local outlets in urban shopping districts at the other end.

“A mall can’t just be about shopping anymore,” said Steven Levin, Centennial Real Estate’s chief executive officer. “Understanding the needs of your market is the cornerstone of creating a one-of-a-kind experience that guests can’t get online or anywhere else.”


 

Jessica Prokop contributed to this story.