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May experiments with Waterfront Kaufmann's

| Saturday, May 24, 2003

The new Kaufmann's department store under construction at the massive Waterfront development in Homestead will be a cutting-edge outlet exemplifying plans by May Department Store Co. to meet changing customer needs and perceptions.

The store is scheduled to open in late October or early November and is one of three so-called new-concept, "lifestyle" stores that Kaufmann's and two other chains owned by St. Louis-based May plan to open in 2003, said Chairman Gene S. Kahn at the company's annual meeting Friday in Greensboro, N.C.

"These new-format stores feature exciting, trendy interiors with a contemporary look and an energized shopping environment," Kahn said in remarks prepared for the shareholders' meeting.

"Large in-store graphics and stainless steel details are a great backdrop for merchandise selections that reflect today's casual lifestyles," he said. "Plus we've added upscale shopping carts and express checkout for heightened customer convenience."

The new-concept stores, including the outlet under construction at the Waterfront, will be about 140,000 square feet. That's about 40,000 to 60,000 square feet smaller than most other traditional department stores that anchor shopping malls throughout the country, including in the Pittsburgh area.

This is a kind of "right-sizing" that traditional department store companies are considering as they strive to retain and grow market share, said Michael Hendrickson, a veteran retail real estate broker in Pittsburgh.

"It's a reaction to the competitive pressure from stores such as Target and Kohl's," said Hendrickson, president of Hendrickson Retail Group LLC, "It's a general trend across the country that traditional department stores are downsizing and trying to provide better service in more convenient locations."

Kahn said the new-concept stores can be conveniently located in smaller retail developments such as lifestyle centers, or in other developments such as those that combine office and retail or retail and entertainment uses.

It also fits nicely with the Waterfront development, which offers office, retail, entertainment, office, light industrial and residential uses on the former U.S. Steel Homestead Works property that spans three communities, Homestead, West Homestead and Munhall.

Construction is on schedule, said Frank Kass, chairman of Continental Real Estate Cos., the Columbus, Ohio,-based developer of the project. The store, just east of the Homestead Grays Bridge, will be joined by a 400-space parking garage that is starting construction just behind the Dave & Buster's entertainment-restaurant outlet.

As that work continues, Continental is courting still more tenants for the Waterfront.

The company recently announced that a new Best Buy store will be built on a parcel between the existing Michael's and Lowe's Home Improvement stores in Munhall.

"Also, a second phase around Kaufmann's will start in the late summer and be open by the next springtime," Kass said. "We have about another 50,000 square feet of retail planned."

Kass did not mention any names. He just returned from the International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas this week, where he had discussions with a number of potential tenants.

"We're talking to several fashion retailers and several restaurants," he said.

Kass said Continental also has three restaurant parcels available and an 8-acre site west of the Loew's movie theater for potential retail development.

"We just started to talk to tenants, and we have a lot of interest," he said.

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