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Biltmore Fashion Park was once the Grande Old Dame of Phoenix shopping when it was build in the 1960s. Its tenants — including Macy's, Cartier, Apple Store, Saks Fifth Avenue and The Cheesecake Factory — are tops. The project boasts sales-per-square-foot figures exceeding $450. And the outdoor common area, with its fountains and benches, is elegant.

Today, however, with its largely concrete exterior and angular look, it risks being challenged as the dominant luxury retail center if a competitor were to put together a more welcoming project for tenants and shoppers. It's odd, too, that the two departments stores are adjacent to each other on one side and all the restaurants are grouped on another — separated by long, dark corridors from the center's stores.

Apparently Macerich Co., which bought the Biltmore from Taubman Centers a year ago, agrees. “The tenants don't get to shine like they should,” says David Scholl, senior vice president of development for Westcor, a division of Macerich that manages the property. Scholl will head up the Biltmore redevelopment, a rendering of which is show above in color. “The challenge,” he says, “is for us is to make sure we can modernize the architecture in a way that allows the tenants to be the focal point.”

The exterior redesign will turn the Biltmore into a contemporary lifestyle center, with the restaurants tied to the core. A new pedestrian-level streetscape will open up the project and provide better traffic flow.

Indeed, as part of Macerich's Lumenati luxury mall initiative, Biltmore will get special attention. The Santa Monica, Calif.,-based developer is leveraging eight of its upscale centers into a package as a way of building relationships with luxury tenants.

Macerich wants luxury tenants to think of it first when they branch out from bases in urban cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. Another nearby super regional mall in Arizona, the Scottsdale Fashion Square, will also be part of Lumenati.

The Biltmore makeover will be an interesting study for reasons beyond the Lumenati project. It is from the class of malls built in the 1960s where design was secondary, in stark contrast to malls being erected today.

But the process won't be easy. Structuring the comprehensive redevelopment — which will also alter the center's parking and create more open space within its interior — is hard to do without disrupting tenants too much.

In the end, Westcor is hoping to have two attractive projects for prospective tenants to choose from.

“If we can do our job right, we can narrow tenant's decision-making down to whether they want to be inside or outside,” Scholl says. “We think the two centers can be co-marketed.”

The Biltmore rebirth should be worth watching. Westcor is well-versed in Phoenix retail and has a track record of developing strong projects. An already solid center should get only stronger.


Location: Phoenix, Ariz.

Size: 610,077 square feet

Opened: 1963

Owner: Macerich Co.

Major stores include: Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's

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