Spokane Journal of Business

Sabey Corp. readies NorthTown expansion

Work is expected to begin next week on first portion of west-side ‘streetscape’

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Sabey Corp., the Seattle-based owner of NorthTown Mall, says the company is getting ready to move ahead with a previously announced $54 million expansion of the mall, which is Spokanes largest shopping center.

Work is expected to begin next week on a space for Uno Pizzeria, which is to be one of two sit-down restaurants in a planned streetscape of businesses on the malls west side, facing Division Street, says Laurent Poole, Sabey Corp.s executive vice president.

Construction of an addition that will house a 12-screen ACT III cinema complex and two other entertainment-related businesses probably will start this fall, and work on a new 1,100-stall parking garage likely will begin early next year, he says. Both the addition and the parking garage should be completed by next summer, he adds.

Plans for the expansion have been revised somewhat since they were unveiled last November, and the previously estimated construction timetable for the overall project has been pushed back a number of months. Poole claims thats because there has been strong demand for the new space thats to be added at the mall.

Were stuck with the good problem of trying to have everybody in the shopping center that wants to be there, he says. Basically youre dealing with a giant jigsaw puzzle. We spent about three months trying to figure out how we could accommodate everybody.

Sabey Corp. has received letters of intent from prospective tenants for more than 500,000 square feet of retail space at NorthTown, but plans to add only half that much space to the nearly 1 million-square-foot center, so now is trying to find the best fit in terms of tenant mix, Poole says.

Weve had to go through a couple different layouts in considering all of the businesses that wanted to locate in the mall, he says. Sabey Corp. found that it probably could have accommodated all of them, but if it had the resulting complex wouldnt have had the look the company is striving for, so some wont be included in the expansion, he says.

Also, he says, We had the basic financing in place for the expansion, but decided to go up to our maximum envelope in borrowing money for the project and brought bankers in recently to again review the project, Poole says.

That visit to the mall by bankers may have triggered recent rumors circulating here that the center was in financial trouble and that lenders had taken possession of it. To the contrary, Poole says, Actually the malls doing real well. Were pleased. Last year was the best year the mall has ever had.

One of the most significant changes in the expansion plans involves the cinema complex, which originally was to sit atop the new parking garage on the south side of the mall. Plans now call for the theaters to be located on the second floor of a two-story addition thats to be built at the southwest corner of the mall, where a 180,000-square-foot anchor department store space previously was envisioned.

Putting the theater complex there will give moviegoers better access to NorthTowns food court, Poole says. Two other entertainment-type tenants, which he declined to identify, are expected to occupy the first floor of the addition, he says.

Sabey Corp. still intends to bring another fashion anchor tenant into the mall, but hasnt determined yet which one its going to be, Poole says. As currently envisioned, that tenant would open at the mall either late next year or in early 2000.

NorthTown currently has five department stores and about 165 specialty stores, which collectively generate annual sales of about $250 million. In all, about 2,800 people are employed at the mall.

Kim Crompton
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