Las Vegas real-estate firm plans to revive Boulevard Mall

Sansone Cos., a longtime local real estate firm, will try to revive the sagging fortunes of the Boulevard Mall.

Las Vegas’ oldest shopping center was purchased by Sansone for $54.5 million on Nov. 21, according to an announcement issued Monday.

The deal came after more than four months of marketing that followed the decision by former owner Rouse Properties Inc. to surrender the mall rather than try to support its $168 million in debt.

Evan Sansone, part of the second generation of family leadership at the 35-year-old company, said design renovations and a marketing strategy are underway for the nearly 1.2 million square feet.

“We want to be hands-on and hope to change the direction of the mall,” Sansone said.

Likely changes include new landscaping, lighting and entryway. The residential base and the proximity of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas lay the foundation for rebuilding sales, Sansone said.

While Las Vegas has been awash in surplus retail space since the real estate bubble started to deflate about six years ago, the Boulevard Mall has faced the added hurdle of being in a neighborhood that looks much different from when it opened in 1968.

“Certainly the demographic profile has shifted over time,” said Charles Moore, senior vice president of CBRE Private Capital Group, which brokered the sale. “If you have a regional mall, you have to cater to the surrounding area, and that means Hispanic and Filipino customers. The Dillard’s shopper is no longer there.”

Dillard’s, a longtime anchor tenant, closed in 2010. That not only left 135,000 square feet empty on the mall’s south end, but also crippled the eastern corridor of shops that led to Dillard’s indoor entrance. Many of the spaces in that wing were pulled off the market because of the weak traffic, Moore said.

Although the mall’s sales have not been disclosed, the sliding values placed on the property indicate how tough it has been to attract shoppers as several retail centers have risen on the Strip, about 1.5 miles to the west, and several suburban malls, such as Henderson’s Galleria at Sunset, have opened.

According to its annual report, former owner General Growth Properties set the cost at $164.9 million at the 1998 acquisition. When Rouse was deeded ownership three years ago as part of General Growth’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, the price was set at $81 million.

As of the end of last year, Rouse reported that 89 percent of the mall had been leased but only 73 percent was occupied, reflecting retailers that thought it made more sense to lock the doors rather than struggle with anemic sales. The occupancy rate was the second lowest in a Rouse portfolio that includes 32 malls spanning 20 states.

The mall is spread across 56 acres including the mall itself, the surrounding parking lot and a separate building housing Marshall’s and empty space. Macy’s and Sears own their own pads. The other anchor, J.C. Penney Co., leases.

Sansone Cos. develops, buys and manages different types of commercial real estate, including other neighborhood malls.

According to the company’s website, it has amassed a portfolio of 1 million square feet under ownership or management, so the Boulevard Mall marks a huge leap in size.

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