Settlers Ridge to offer Market District, bevy of restaurants

| Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009

Settlers Ridge, the region's newest mega shopping complex, has overcome two years of recession and potential tenant bankruptcies to open its doors to anticipated, eager regional shoppers.

The $100 million project has the demographics and location to attract many retailers either new to, or with a very limited presence across the region, said developers and retail experts.

"We currently are 94 percent leased," said Michael Lebovitz, chief development officer and a member of the family that runs developer CBL & Associates Properties Inc. in Chattanooga, Tenn. — a the publicly-held real-estate investment trust.

Lebovitz gave a tour Wednesday of his company's latest project.

Settlers Ridge's largest tenant, Giant Eagle, is ready to open its latest area Market District store. The 150,000-square-foot facility will open Nov. 5.

"This location allows us to illustrate our ultimate vision for the Market District concept," said Giant Eagle spokesman Rob Borella. "It will offer a mezzanine level, a cooking school, onsite gelato-making — a true world of food."

The Settlers Ridge Market District store is significantly larger than retrofitted Market District locations in Bethel Park and Shadyside. The Robinson site will employ about 650 — including most of the 250 at the Giant Eagle at Robinson Crossroads, which will close Nov. 4, Borella said.

The recession had an impact on the original marketing philosophy for Settlers Ridge. The huge project, off Campbells Run Road, initially was to be a fashion center, built around one major anchor tenant that would draw enough shoppers to entice smaller retailers to get onboard.

In 2007, co-developer Faison Enterprises Inc. told reporters that a Boscov's department store would anchor the complex. More than a year ago, Boscov's filed for bankruptcy and closed stores, including Monroeville Mall and South Hills Village sites, and shelved expansion plans.

During the tour of Settlers Ridge yesterday, Lebovitz said that Faison no longer is involved with Settlers Ridge and that Boscov's never was a part of Settlers Ridge. But he said that CBL's plans for an open-air, fashion-retailer shopping center were dashed because fashion retailers nationwide have been among the hardest-hit retailers by the recession.

"We adjusted our marketing plans to complement a Giant Eagle Market District store, an REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) and a Cinemark movie complex," Lebovitz said. "We pursued restaurants, and we've been very successful."

Cinemark opened two weeks ago, and REI and Panera Bread will open Oct. 30. Others will open in coming months.

Lebovitz also said the economic downturn had no effect on securing financing. Construction financing was provided by PNC Bank, Union Bank of California, Regions Bank and U.S. Bank.

The Giant Eagle Market District store is key to success at Settlers Ridge, according to real estate consultant Burt Flickinger III.

"This is a bad time to be opening any new shopping complex for just about anyone — except someone with Giant Eagle as an anchor," said Flickinger, managing director of Strategic Resource Group in New York. "With Giant Eagle as a anchor, a developer can be assured of getting key adjacent tenants."

Not everyone, however, is convinced a Giant Eagle-anchored, open-air retail center will be a complete success.

"Barnes & Noble, LA Fitness and REI are fine tenants, but with Giant Eagle as its primary anchor, Settlers Ridge now is more of a convenience-oriented — rather than fashion-oriented — shopping destination," said John Fox, principal with Fox Real Estate Advisory LLC of Cumberland, Ind.

Fox is familiar with the Pittsburgh retail market, having worked for mall developer-owner Simon Property Group, on its Ross Park Mall and South Hills Village projects.

The consultant said despite three very large retail complexes — Settlers Ridge; Robinson Towne Center-The Mall at Robinson; and The Pointe at North Fayette all in a small area — he doesn't see the new venture negatively impacting its long established competitors.

Additional Information:

At a glance

What: New shopping center, featuring a Giant Eagle Market District supermarket as the anchor tenant; a handful of smaller anchors, including a 16-screen Cinemark movie theater; and a nearby Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

Location: Off Campbells Run Road in Robinson

Total acreage: 77 acres

Size: 600,000 square feet

? Project cost: $100 million

? Other major tenants: LA Fitness, Barnes & Noble, Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI)

• Other tenants: Omaha Steaks and restaurants PF Chang's, Cadillac Ranch, First Watch, an 'All-American' restaurant new to Pennsylvania and Saga Japanese Steakhouse, another newcomer to the region

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