David Kaplan / Houston Chronicle – Baybrook Mall, already among the Houston area’s most profitable per square foot, will become one of its physically largest as well, through a major expansion announced Monday that will give it about the same footprint as west Houston’s Memorial City Mall. It would be surpassed in size only by the Galleria, a bona fide tourist destination that is known internationally.
The company that owns the indoor shopping complex off the Gulf Freeway in suburban Webster will add 555,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space and create a community lawn the length of a football field. The design features eight new buildings and outdoor-oriented “lifestyle areas” similar to those common to pedestrian-friendly town centers and becoming even popular at traditionally enclosed malls.
Mall owner General Growth Properties said in its announcement that it remains bullish on the hub south of Houston.While many indoor retail centers are making adjustments merely to survive in the face of sweeping changes in Americans’ social and shopping habits, Baybrook plans instead to build on recent success. In what was considered a coup two years ago, Baybrook was one of just two local malls to sign H&M, an iconic retailer appealing to teens and young women.
“Baybrook Mall is nearly 100 percent leased and is located in one of the nation’s fastest-growing markets,” executive vice president Richard Pesin said. “Retailers and restaurants are looking to add new locations in high-quality centers.”
The project, set to be completed by the 2015 Christmas shopping season, would expand Baybrook by about 50 percent, to some 1.7 million square feet, leapfrogging the likes of The Woodlands and Willowbrook malls.
GGP said through a mall spokesman that the company also is positioning the 36-year-old Baybrook Mall as a more community-oriented, family-welcoming space, with not just 30-plus new stores but also a movie theater, 10 restaurants and an outdoor lawn the length of a football field intended to host family gatherings and special events.
The new design will allow customers to walk from store to store in an open-air environment and be connected by shaded walkways, the mall’s marketing manager Colin Moussa said.
Jeff Green, a retail feasibility consultant based in Phoenix, applauded Baybrook’s owners on the strategy. “They’re combining the mall with the speciality center concept, and I think it’s a great idea,” said Green, president of Jeff Green Partners.
“The restaurant category is basically exploding,” he added, “and it looks like they’re really trying to set up a food and entertainment hub.”
Scott Shillings, president of Riverway Retail, a retail tenant representative, agreed that Baybrook is a regional powerhouse. He said it is one of the entire area’s top generators of sales per square feet.
“Baybrook Mall has a dominant position in the southeast corridor of the Houston area,” he said.
GGP has added similar outdoor lifestyle areas at its First Colony, in Sugar Land, and Woodlands malls, he said. The company also owns Willowbrook and Deerbook malls, both well north of Beltway 8.
GGP declined to name any of the retailers expected to sign on in the expanded Baybrook space, but Moussa said they would include big-box anchor tenants.
The project is a joint venture between GGP and landowner CDC.
Existing Baybrook tenants include Dillard’s, Forever 21, Lego, Coach and Michael Kors. After its expansion Baybrook will be the largest of GGP’s five Houston-area malls.
Memorial City Mall underwent a big expansion and by 2003 grew to 1.7 million square feet, with the additions of Dillard’s, JCPenney, Cinemark Memorial City, and other retail, said Steve Nisenson, director of marketing at MetroNational, developer and manager of Memorial City Mall.