Anchored by Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus and Macy's -- and including such big-ticket tenants as Tiffany's, Gucci and Bang & Olufsen -- the mall is positioning itself as a magnet for residents and a destination in its own right for tourists and business travelers.
Some question the wisdom of putting a gaggle of high-end retailers in the center of a region dominated by low-paying service jobs. But the developers say they based the project on four factors, which will give the project the panache of the toniest retail spots in the nation, says Nathan Forbes, managing partner of the mall for the two developers, the Forbes Co. and Taubman Centers.
First, the developers sought -- and landed -- three high-end anchors that weren't in the market already.
Second, they developed a strong restaurant component, hoping to extend patrons' shopping stay and make the mall, at I-4 and Conroy Road, a destination for tourists and conventioneers, Forbes says.
Third, the mall made a particular effort to bring in tenants that didn't exist in central Florida already -- nearly 60% of the leasable space is going to retailers new to the market.
Finally, the design of the mall, the developers hope, will put it on the cutting edge of fashion. Indeed, Forbes' two signature properties, the Somerset Collection in the suburbs of Detroit and the Gardens of the Palm Beaches in Palm Beach Garden, are see-and-be-seen destinations.
The soaring design of the mall -- which reportedly cost nearly $100 million to build -- has been called exquisite and stunning by those who have seen it in progress. The architectural details include fossil-infused stone, British glass, African wood accents and a variety of imported finishings ranging from wood to marble.
When Forbes and Taubman started looking at the area in the late 1990s, they were using 1990 Census data, which indicated the area might be ready for high-end retail, especially given the popularity of Isleworth and Windermere among high-income people. The 2000 Census, however, showed they were off the mark a bit.
"The growth of the high end of the market was much, much higher than we expected," Forbes says. "And besides, the high end of the market was never really tested adequately before. There were a few high-end stores but no critical mass."
IN THE NEWS
Cape Canveral -- Kennedy Space Center has patented an inexpensive lightning detector known as the Sonic Lightning Locator, or SOLLO, that can accurately pinpoint where cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. The system was designed to determine whether equipment at launch pads needs to be inspected after a storm. Potential users include amusement parks, golf courses, utilities and airports.
Daytona Beach -- Cendant Corp. is buying Budget Group (OTC-BDGPA.OB), which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July, for $107.5 million. Cendant, which owns rental car company Avis, is also assuming $2.7 billion of Budget's debt. The deal would make Cendant the second-biggest car-rental company in the U.S. behind Enterprise Rent-a-Car.
Debary -- Adam's Building Materials of Winter Haven plans to build a wood-molding production facility on seven acres in Spring View Industrial Park. The project may involve nearly 50,000 square feet of space and 40 employees.
Kissimmee -- A circuit court judge threw out a lawsuit by the Orlando/Kissimmee Hotel Motel Association challenging the county's selection of Xentury City Development to build a planned $100-million convention center. The association vowed to continue the fight.
The Great American Station Foundation, a rail station preservation group, has awarded Kissimmee a $15,000 grant to prepare a transportation plan that preserves the city's train station by linking Amtrak, Greyhound and Lynx bus service.
Lake Mary -- Colonial Properties Trust, a real estate investment trust, has bought seven office buildings on 102 acres in Heathrow International Business Center for about $120 million.
Maitland -- Tijuana Flats Burrito Co. has signed a joint venture agreement for four more restaurants in Sarasota, Manatee and Pinellas counties. The company now has 10 restaurants statewide, including two in Orlando, two in Winter Park and one each in Apopka and Lake Mary.
Orange County -- Crescent Resources, a major developer in Lake Mary, has started construction on a 150,000-sq.-ft. spec office building in Central Florida Research Park. The company says the $20-million building will be next to the company's other two properties there, One Research Square and Two Research Square, both of which are fully leased. Occupancy is expected in mid-2003.
Orlando -- Chip maker Agere Systems will keep its plant open for at least two more years while it seeks a buyer. The company told employees the plant would stay open until at least the end of September 2004 but added that additional layoffs were likely. The company is closing plants in Pennsylvania, Texas, California and Mexico.
A special examiner looking into Planet Hollywood's (OTC-PHWDQ.PK) finances found the company wrote off celebrities' debts, perhaps improperly, and maintained a corporate structure filled with "potential insider conflicts." The examiner's report, filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, urged a legal probe of company management practices.
Hughes Supply (NYSE-HUG) is buying Utiliserve Holdings of Corinth, Texas, for $90 million. The company is a distributor of products and services for the electrical transmission industry. Hughes has operations at 439 locations in 34 states.
SeaWorld Orlando announced plans for a waterfront dining and shopping complex around the park's central lake. The project may be completed next month. SeaWorld has been expanding dining options already, adding restaurants that look into the Shamu tank and the Terrors of the Deep shark attraction.
Orlando Regional Healthcare Systems plans to sell seven buildings totaling more than 221,000 square feet to Dasco Cos. of West Palm Beach for about $20.2 million. ORHS will lease about 67,000 square feet in the buildings, which are at the hospital's downtown campus, on Sand Lake Road and in Oviedo.
Osceola County -- The Wilder Cos. of Boston plans to build a 320,000-sq.-ft. retail, restaurant and entertainment center at the intersection of John Young and Osceola parkways. The Loop, as the project is known, will be about a half-mile south of Hunter's Creek and will feature wide sidewalks, fountains and other pedestrian-friendly measures, while still including curbside parking.
Tavares -- Locklando Door & Millwork, a door and millwork manufacturer, plans to build a 45,000-sq.-ft. facility in Southridge Industrial Centre. Locklando employs 52 in Tavares.
Winter Park -- The former Langford Hotel site being redeveloped for 23 luxury condos and a 150-room hotel and spa will be operated by Regent International Hotels, a luxury chain that is a subsidiary of hospitality giant Carlson Cos. Construction is due to start next summer.
LaserSight was dropped from the Nasdaq national trading board (symbol: LASE) because the company's stock traded below the market's $1 per share threshold for months.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
SANFORD -- American Bronze Fine Art Foundry has landed a contract with the Vatican to reproduce 4,027 busts of the Virgin Mary from Michelangelo's statue The Pieta. The foundry will create 3,000 bronze busts, 1,000 silver, 25 gold and two platinum busts under the exclusive license. The Vatican will sell the bronze busts for $15,000 apiece, the silver for $30,000 and the gold for $2 million. The two platinum busts will be sold at auction and may fetch as much as $5 million apiece.
DAYTONA BEACH -- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is offering a 10-to 12-month program to turn beginning fliers into regional airline pilots. The course, conducted at St. Augustine Airport, includes 550 hours of total flight time and experience on advanced jet simulators. A pilot shortage looms: A survey by the school indicates that by 2003, commercial aviation will need more than 11,000, but only around 7,500 qualified pilots are expected to enter the field.