Empire Mall, Empire East under new management
Few changes set for right now
Kelly Thurman / Argus Leader
The start of 2012 brought with it management and ownership changes at The Empire Mall.
As of Jan. 1, the Simon Property Group took over full ownership and management of The Empire Mall and Empire East from The Macerich Company. The shuffle is expected to mean few changes in Sioux Falls, at least at first. Local management, including senior property manager Dennis Gilliam, also will stay in place, said David Contis, president of Simon’s mall platform.
But as with any change in management, fresh eyes probably will provide new ideas on how the mall can improve, whether it’s as simple as new seating and improved bathrooms or changing the tenant mix, he said.
“We’re going to do a bottom up, top down evaluation of the property,” Contis said. “What can we do to the property? How can we improve the tenant mix? We think there’s a lot of opportunity. It’s a great asset.”
Simon isn’t unfamiliar with the The Empire Mall. Since 1998, Macerich and Simon have been co-owners in a portfolio of 12 regional shopping malls, including the Sioux Falls center. But the two companies split management of the various malls, with Macerich handling Sioux Falls.
They recently decided to dissolve the partnership and split up the portfolio. Simon ended up with both The Empire and Rushmore malls in South Dakota, along with Southern Hills in Sioux City and the regional shopping centers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Grand Junction, Colo.
The management change provides Simon a presence in South Dakota they didn’t have before.
“It really fills in an area that we wanted to take advantage of,” he said.
Contis also said that their large footprint, which includes more than 170 malls across the United States and 392 properties worldwide, might benefit the Sioux Falls mall in the future.
“We have a lot of relationships that we can bring to bear,” he said.
The Empire Mall, which opened in 1975, is one of the largest shopping centers in the region, with about 160 permanent tenants taking up 1.36 million square feet of space along West 41st Street. In the past 35 years, it has evolved into a major shopping corridor. The mall attracts about 7 million shoppers a year.
The company was originally developed and managed by General Growth Properties.
Krista Orsack, director of sales and marketing for the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the mall continues to be an important stimulator for the local economy.
Jeff Green, a national retail consultant based in Arizona, said it’s uncommon to see a joint-ownership partnership such as Macerich and Simon had in the shopping mall industry.
“It’s very rare,” he said.
Generally, Green said there hasn’t been a lot of shifting in mall ownership in the past few years. The big change was General Growth’s recent decision to spin off 30 malls into a new company called Rouse Properties that is set to go public this year.