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Century III new owner seeks to reverse vacancy trend with new theater

Century III new owner seeks to reverse vacancy trend with new theater

By Tory N. Parrish

The owner of Century III is betting that a movie theater could help revitalize the struggling West Mifflin mall.

Las Vegas-based Moonbeam Capital Investments LLC, which bought the mall in May, said it is negotiating with two national chains with a Pittsburgh-area presence to open a first-run movie theater with stadium seating in Century III. Shawl L. Pryor, senior vice president of real estate, won't name the companies because no lease has been signed.

Contending with a high vacancy rate, about 32 percent, and low foot traffic, the 34-year-old mall needs an entertainment component as part of its revitalization, Moonbeam said.

“We believe that it's a very important aspect of why people go back to the mall. It's not just to buy clothing anymore,” Moonbeam Chief Executive Officer Steven Maksin said.

“It's also maybe to have an experience, a shopping experience, a movie experience, a night out and we think that a movie theater is a great addition to a … shopping center, such as Century III.”

The closest first-run movie theater to Century III with modern amenities, such as stadium seating, is the AMC Loews Waterfront 22, which is 6.9 miles away in The Waterfront shopping center in the Homestead area.

Atlanta-based AMC Entertainment Inc. did not respond to calls about whether it planned to open a location in Century III. A spokeswoman at Plano, Texas-based Cinemark Holdings Inc., which owns five theaters in the Pittsburgh area, including a new site in Monroeville Mall, said the company did not have a Century III location on its calendar of planned openings.

Columbus, Ga.-based Carmike Cinemas Inc., which owns nine theaters in the Pittsburgh region, could not be reached for comment.

The discussions with the movie theaters began months ago, but became more solidified when Moonbeam officials met with representatives from retail and restaurant chains Monday and Tuesday at a New York-based national retail conference presented by the International Council of Shopping Centers, Pryor said.

During the meeting, Moonbeam negotiated with four national restaurant chains, two apparel stores that would take up about 70,000 square feet in the mall, a home goods store that would take up about 50,000 square feet and several tenants that would take between 1,500 and 15,000 square feet each.

Nothing is definite, but “we're very sure that we'll be able to make deals with these guys to get into this redevelopment of Century III,” Pryor said.

These days, movie theaters in malls almost have become necessities, said David Glickman, director of retail services in the Downtown office of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, a New York-based real estate firm.

“Of course, good tenants help, too, good anchors and typically the rest falls into place,” he said.

In May, Moonbeam bought the 1.2 million-square-foot Century III for $10.5 million from C-III Capital Partners LLC of Irving, Texas. C-III paid $1 in 2011 to purchase the mall from Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc. Simon voluntarily defaulted on $78.97 million in debt on Century III.

Moonbeam owns 12.3 million square feet of commercial property, including nine enclosed malls, and has a history of buying malls that have gone into foreclosure or otherwise hit tough times but are in great locations with good demographics, the company has said.

Century III is the fourth-largest mall in the Pittsburgh region but the property, which is on 86.75 acres, has been challenged for years by neglect, Moonbeam said.

Its assets include strong anchors, such as J.C. Penney and Macy's, which both recently extended the terms of their leases, and a new owner that is committed to the mall and the trade market, said Kevin Langholz, a principal at Downtown real estate firm Langholz Wilson Ellis Inc., which is marketing the mall.

Part of the redevelopment would include providing outparcels, which the mall doesn't have, he said.

Langholz and Moonbeam are working on a site plan that would include reducing retail space and adding uses that might include medical/office space or a hotel.

The company would put the movie theater on the back of the mall where the parking deck is, and the theater's main entrance would be inside the mall so moviegoers would pass stores, Pryor said.

Parrish, Troy. (2013, December 11), Century III new owner seeks to reverse vacancy trends with new theater, TribLive (December 30, 2013),