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New Columbus center puts the super into super-regional

You won't see befuddled shoppers shuffling through Polaris Fashion Place's parking lots looking for a misplaced car, nor will you see them roaming through the center burdened with heavy winter coats and packages. That's because of Polaris Fashion Place's extensive array of services and amenities, including valet parking and complimentary coat and package check.

Glimcher Realty Trust, the developer of the Columbus-based center, has created a services and amenities package for the super-regional center that is rarely seen in retail environments.

When it debuts this month, the 1.5 million sq.-ft. super-regional Polaris Fashion Place will include seven anchor stores — Saks Fifth Avenue (100,000 sq. ft.), Lord & Taylor (120,000 sq. ft.), Kaufmann's (200,000 sq. ft.), The Great Indoors (130,000 sq. ft.), Lazarus (180,000 sq. ft.), JCPenney (140,000 sq. ft.) and Sears (180,000 sq. ft.). The retail line-up also includes 150 specialty stores and restaurants. In order to deliver the new Polaris Fashion Center to the market as quickly as possible, Glimcher used an accelerated schedule to design, construct and open the center. Construction began just last July.

Although the site had been eyed by developers for more than a decade, no company yet had been able to pull off a development at this location. Looking at Columbus as the face of a clock, the site sits at 12 o'clock, situated just off an existing highway interchange. In addition to an enviable location, the site was appealing because the area demographics are favorable and include tremendous residential and commercial growth, as well as an influx of new well-to-do residents. Moreover, Delaware County, in which Polaris Fashion Place is located, is the fifth fastest growing county in the nation and the fastest growing in Ohio.

But the market was missing several major fashion department stores. “The market was controlled by a handful of department stores and we felt a real need to bring some new, different stores to the marketplace,” comments Mike Powers, Glimcher's vice president of leasing. The market also lacked dozens of smaller retailers that were doing well in comparable markets elsewhere.

Glimcher had the goal — which it has met — of having a minimum of 35% of its retailers new to the market. “We wanted the ability to draw customers from beyond a 10 to 15 minute drive to a 45-minute drive for the primary market, so it was critical to have new names,” says Powers.

Catering to lifestyle

In sizing up the market, Glimcher saw one of its main customer bases, those within a five-mile radius, divided into three categories — singles, empty nesters and baby boomers. The categories helped the company tailor the center to appeal to the groups' interests and needs.

To set the center apart, Glimcher took a page out of a choice hotel manual not only in terms of service, but also in design. “We developed a tremendous service and amenities package, not typically found at a mall, to appeal to the various lifestyle segments,” says Linda Wardell, assistant general manager of Polaris Fashion Place.

Among the unique services is the valet parking that lets shoppers drop their car at one entrance and retrieve it at another. “It's very appealing to a cross-section of our lifestyle segments, like seniors who can't walk the entire center and stroller moms with tired children,” she adds.

Located literally just minutes from I-71, a major north/south thoroughfare, a regional tourism program was implemented to attract shoppers from distant cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, Louisville, Ky., and Indianapolis, as well as from foreign destinations. To provide the ultimate guest service for both local and regional visitors, Polaris has a guest reception center, which includes travel information and hotel reservations services.

Other unique services include personal shopper programs that serve those with special needs as well as those who are time-pressed. Customers who need someone to accompany them through the center, for example, can call Polaris Fashion Place and arrange for someone to guide them through the mall. And an 800 number provides the guest reception team immediate connection to a translation service to communicate effectively with clients who don't speak English.

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