The Village Sold for $6 Million

By: Dwayne Hartnett

Southwest Properties Group, Inc. of Dallas has reached an agreement to purchase The Village at Woodland Hills Shopping Center for in excess of $6 million.

The seller is Washington, D.C.-based J.E. Robert Co., an investment firm that acquired the center in 1992 as part of a 25-property package deal with the Resolution Trust Corp.

Executive Vice President Scott D. Remphrey said Southwest Properties would invest an additional $1.5 million on renovating and landscaping the property, which includes approximately 230,000 square feet of space and is located on 25 acres across Memorial Drive from Woodland Hills Mall.

“This property basically has been in the hands of lenders and the RTC,” Remphrey said.

“Actually, it’s been almost four years – since 1991 – since the property was in the hands of private investors, so there’s not been much done to improve the center. You can’t shop an empty store.”

Occupancy has never exceeded 50 percent, although anticipation of the sale has prompted two restaurants – Shogun Steak House of Japan and J.L. Coop – to move to the center. Shogun is vacating its 51st Street and Harvard Avenue location in Tulsa, while J.L. Coop, a chicken specialty restaurant, will be entering the market for the first time. Both restaurants should be operational by late August or early September.

Several other potential tenants are expected to join the Village lineup once the deal is closed on Friday. “We’re talking with a western style clothing store, a patio furniture and fireplace accessory store, a billiards parlor and an appliance store,” Remphrey said.

“We’re on a timetable that should see the renovation done by 90 days and total leased space in 18 months.”

Remphrey, however, said new and improved signage is a priority for speedy development of the property. “Most of the store fronts are hidden from view by trees, berms and retail stores like Red Lobster, Mervyn’s and Pep Boys Automotive, and set back as much as 800 feet from the street,” he said.

“They’re virtually undetectable from Memorial Boulevard’s driving lanes.”

One possible solution, Remphrey said, is changes in the Movies 8 sign with emphasis on the center instead of the theatre. “We met with the head of real estate for Cinemark Theatre Group in Las Vegas, and he expressed a willingness to give up part of the sign if it would help the center,” Remphrey said.

“His position was that movie viewers do not go to the movie as the result of seeing a sign on Memorial, but rather from ads in the newspaper or another family decision.”

Remphrey said a major factor in Southwest Properties purchasing the property is the proximity to Woodland Hills Mall, the region’s largest shopping center and the subject of an $8 million renovation and facelift. “The importance of being situated immediately west of Woodland Hills Mall cannot be overstated,” he said.

“The fact that REEF (the owner of Woodland Hills Mall) is spending that kind of money on a 20-year old shopping center tells us of the faith they have in the business area. We’re going to try and capitalize on our neighbor’s success.”

The Leinbach Co.’s Dion Gantt has been retained as leasing agent and manager for the Village. Jeffrey J. Gunning of Dallas-based RTKL Associates has been hired as engineer-architect for the project.

The center was built by Dallas developer Michael Neary in 1985 on a 33-acre site with a maximum approved density of 320,000 square feet. Of the original 320,000 square feet area, Mervyn’s bought a 6-acre site and built a free-standing, 77,000 square foot single story department store.

In addition to the Mervyn’s transaction, sites have been sold to Red Lobster (1.04 acres) and Pep Boys (1.9 acres) to improve cash flow. Two of the original anchor tenants, Beall’s Department Store and Marshall’s have closed. Beall’s remains obligated for rental payments.

Southwest Properties is a real estate investment company that specializes in the acquisition and development of commercial property. The company was formed in 1981.

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