Cherry Creek mall’s 2019 plans include solar panels, AMC renovations

Cherry Creek Shopping Center. (BusinessDen file photo)

The Cherry Creek Shopping Center’s 2019 plans include installing solar panels on part of its roof – partially explaining Nick LeMasters’ sunny outlook for the mall next year.

The mall has been installing solar panels on the roof of its western side. The project is almost complete, and the general manager estimated they’ll be turned on in March.

“Because of the predominance of the sun in Denver — 300 days of sunshine — we’re going to be effectively powering half of the common-area energy supply with these solar panels,” LeMasters said. “It will reduce our overhead significantly, and it’s the right thing to do. We believe our customers will respect the fact that we’re really taking a lead on such an important project.”

It’s one example of capital investment at the mall, which LeMasters said is needed to succeed.

“When people talk about the death of malls, we always think, ‘Well, someone needs to tell us that,’” LeMasters said. “It’s just not happening here. Every single space in this mall today is either occupied, under negotiation or under construction. We are effectively full.”

To encourage tenants to update their looks, he said the shopping center offers leases shorter than the 10-year industry standard and builds “midterm remodel” language into its leases.

“We’ve found that a lot of retailers want to renovate,” LeMasters said. “They’re rolling out stores all the time and as they do so, they evolve their concept and their presentation.”

Pandora is in the midst of a midterm remodel. And AMC Theatres, an original tenant of the mall, also will upgrade its look in 2019, which LeMasters called overdue.

“Today’s moviegoer expects an upscale experience,” he said. “Our customers love the convenience of this particular theater, but it hasn’t kept pace with others in the market. It will have a completely new and upscale feel to it.”

French luxury brand Hermes will begin construction of its 5,000-square-foot space in early 2019, LeMasters said. It’s expected to open in 2020. The mall store will replace the company’s standalone site across the street at 105 Fillmore St.

The rise of online shopping has prompted many to question the viability of malls. LeMasters said Cherry Creek’s location has played a large role in keeping business strong, adding that mall owners need a “vision for how they’re continuing to evolve over the long term.”

“We have a lot of things going for us, least of which is the demographics of the area,” he said. “This mall would not be successful in the middle of Kansas. If you’re ignoring the marketplace, you’re going to run into roadblocks.”

Upscale retailer Hermes will be placed next to similar shops, such as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co. and Tory Burch.

“Hermes is the personification of luxury, and luxury retailers want to be next to other luxury retailers,” LeMasters said. “To be next to other luxury retailers, there’s spin-off business. They tend to complement each other more than compete with each other.”

Sometimes stores get moved around in the mall in the hopes of boosting sales. For example, LensCrafters soon will move to a different storefront in the mall, and a new retailer — which LeMasters declined to disclose — will take its place.

November’s addition of Zara, a popular European outfitter, also required rearranging, so Brooks Brothers and Express both moved into different mall locations. Zara will take 38,000 square feet, making it the largest non-department store in the mall.

LeMasters said the mall will continue to look for emerging retail categories to bring in, such as e-commerce brands adding brick-and-mortar stores and not just selling online. Casper, Peloton and Amazon are examples of such businesses now in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center.

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