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South Hills Village to get new stores, food court update

Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 12:45 p.m.
 

At nearly 50 years old, South Hills Village is getting a facelift to project a younger, wealthier image.

Indianapolis-based owner Simon Property Group said this week that the complex will get retailers Forever 21, Soma, Lane Bryant and Ulta, along with more than $1 million in renovations to its food court, entrances and common areas.

Jeff Green, a Phoenix-based retail consultant, said developers are building fewer regional shopping malls in the United States — only one, in Sarasota, Fla., opened this year — so operators such as Simon are renovating properties to attract higher-end retailers and customers.

South Hills Village, he said, has many upper-middle class shoppers living nearby, with plenty of drive time, bridges, hills and tunnels separating them from other shopping destinations.

“It's an older center; it's been around a long time, but it's also got a captive audience,” Green said of the mall that opened in 1965. “Simon is looking to keep it that way.”

The mall isn't likely to lose much business to online retailers or boutiques elsewhere, he said. Its biggest competitor might be Ross Park Mall, another Simon property.

The mall is in Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair, near the intersection of Route 19 and Fort Couch Road and at the terminus of a Port Authority light-rail line.

“I'm sure (Simon) is aware that other mall properties aren't doing so well, but the Village has continued to grow and flourish over the decades,” said Robert Orchowski, president of the Upper St. Clair board of commissioners.

C. Britt Beemer, of Charleston, S.C.-based America's Research Group, said upgrading public spaces such as food courts is good business for malls, because those make the biggest impression on customers outside of individual retailers. Projecting a cleaner, fresher and more comfortable image can attract shoppers, he said.

“We understand people are rushed for time and want creature comforts to follow them into the mall,” said David Lee, regional director of operations for Simon.

Lee declined to say how much the company will spend on South Hills Village but said it is “in the range of a few million” dollars and is part of Simon's efforts to refresh six to nine properties per year.

The mall will add, expand or relocate 20 retailers before the holiday season, when crews are expected to finish renovations, officials said. Other openings will be announced through the summer.

Changes will include Dairy Queen relocating into the food court and Kay Jewelers expanding.

Ulta, which sells beauty products, will open in the “annex” space outside the mall, which had been occupied by Dick's Sporting Goods until it moved into a two-story anchor location above Target in 2012.

The food court, which was added in 1993, will get expanded restrooms, tile floors, columns clad in wood and porcelain tiles, and a mix of banquette seating, family tables and larger chairs for lounging, mall manager Linda Accettulla sid.

Customers will be able to walk through the center of the food court instead of having to circle its perimeter.

Five of the six entrances will be renovated with automatic doors, new lighting and signs. The sixth was updated when Dick's and Target opened in the former Boscov's space. Escalators will be added at both ends of the mall; carpet, tile and handrails will be upgraded.

Construction will be done at night to minimize disruptions for shoppers, Accettulla said, though some areas of food court seating will close temporarily for tile installation.

Matthew Santoni is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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