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The Effect of Town & Country Crossing Vacancies After Four Years

New owner Ramco-Gershenson, Inc. wants the shopping plaza to be a night time destination, not just another neighborhood strip mall.

Town & Country Crossing has struggled to find retailers after opening more than four years ago. The plaza has space for 310,000 square feet of shopping--up to 44 stores and restaurants. Only 29 shops, restaurants and a bank are currently open. In December 2011, the complex was .

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Representatives of Ramco-Gershenson are optimistic that they can turn the center into a “lifestyle destination” for evening entertainment, as well as unique daytime shopping experiences. They plan to court national chains at a Vegas convention in June.

“We’ll sit down with a universe of tenants who like to be with or ,” said Michael Sullivan, Ramco-Gershenson’s Senior Vice President of Asset Management. “The goal is to solidify the strip by the lake.” He said the lake front properties have the potential to draw in “vibrant nighttime destinations.”

“We have several prospects, half are national retailers,” Sullivan said. He also said that they are in touch with a few retailers already in the St. Louis area who would like to move to Town & Country Crossing.

“They want to step up and move to a better shopping center than they are already in,” he said. He said being in Michigan has no impact on their management of the property and that have sent representatives to the St. Louis area several times already to personally meet with store owners. They also have a property manager on site to handle tenant needs and organize community events, like a recent fishing derby at the lake.

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Dawn Hendershot, director of corporate communications at Ramco-Gershenson, said the property is actually 84 percent leased because they think in terms of square-footage, not potential store fronts.

Locations like and take up more than one "store front." Her calculation also does not include two buildings, not yet constructed, that would be built to suit future businesses. One store would be a junior anchor near the entrance at Woods Mill Road. The other shop—possibly a restaurant--would face the lake, between and Whole Foods Market. Both lots are just grass for now.

There are 16 available store fronts in the plaza, many of them in the smaller 1800 square-foot range.

Two of the vacancies were once occupied by and . Both of these shops are on the lakefront portion of the plaza. One additional vacancy facing the lake has never been occupied.

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Erin Preuss, a manager at , said that her store feels the impact of all the vacancies.

“The more the center is filled, the more foot traffic you’d have,” she said. Three Dog Bakery, a lake facing property, has been at the Crossing for two years. She said another negative impact on her customers is having the shop facing away from parking.

“For us, people who have dogs, it’s not a big deal to walk,” she said. But when it’s raining, she worries that people may avoid the long walk to her door for dog treats. Preuss added she doesn’t mind opening the back door, close to the parking lot, for frequent customers.

Dustin Fox, an assistant manager at The Dollar Tree, next to Target, feels frustrated that no one knows his store is open. The Dollar Tree neighbors a long stretch of empty store fronts as shoppers enter the plaza from Woods Mills Road. The bargain shop has been open since August.

“Most shoppers are coming to Target, but they’ll stop by here first to see what we have,” Fox said. “Those vacant lots don’t put a lot of traffic by here. It would help us get noticed a little more.”

Not all retailers are feeling a negative impact from the vacancies. A clerk at Cotton Babies, who wished to remain anonymous, said that many of their customers are drawn in by nearby Whole Foods. Both stores appeal to customers who shop for organic and natural goods. Cotton Babies also sells a unique product--a custom line of cloth diapers--which can only be purchased at one of three St. Louis Cotton Babies stores or online.

Staff at the Town & Country Crossing said their location is the number one store in their  franchise group.

“There’s no problem with this location,” said a stylist who only identified herself as Erica. “We’re doing something right. We’re pretty successful here and we’re seeing an increase in customers.”

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