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Urban Retail To Partner with MGM On Giant Theme Projects

Urban Retail Properties is set to announce, as early as today, a landmark development partnership with MGM Studios that is slated to produce at least six massive mixed-use projects in the United States, South Korea and China. The projects will all take their themes from MGM’s movie television properties, including the Rocky saga and the Pink Panther series.

"We have come to an understanding and are putting a strategic alliance together to create mixed-use opportunities globally," Urban Chairman & CEO Ross Glickman told Retail Traffic in an exclusive interview. "This is a combination of our development and leasing capabilities with their intellectual property, consumer products, and film library. We see a need for entertainment-based lifestyle centers that can be branded and placed around the globe. We're very excited about the prospects of what this can bring both of us."

Glickman declined to provide any financial details, but says the projects will have restaurants, stores and other attractions based on MGM's 4,200-film library and its television products. For example, a project could include a sports bar themed on the Rocky movies. Another idea is on-site film academies, where customers could sign up for filmmaking courses and produce their own short films. The projects may also include MGM-branded theaters alongside traditional retail tenants. "Gap, Victoria Secret, Ann Taylor, yes, they could all be there too," Glickman said.

The joint venture is not connected to MGM's gaming and hotels division, Glickman emphasized. "It's a separate business, division,” he said. “This is about film rights and intellectual property.”

The first confirmed project is a 700-acre attraction in Buson, South Korea that will include a theme park based on MGM properties. Glickman says he expects that project to open in 2009 or 2010. The companies are also pursuing an opportunity in Shanghai, which Glickman says will be announced soon.

However, the first properties to open, Glickman says, will probably be in the U.S. He says the partners are looking at four possible sites and expect to announce two before the ICSC Spring Convention begins on May 21. Glickman says Urban will use its 12,000-square-foot ICSC booth to showcase the venture.

"We think this will be a pretty powerful draw for shoppers looking for a new experience, something that will sustain multiple visits, is destination-oriented and will have a large regional draw," Glickman said.

Negotiations between the companies began last fall when MGM approached Urban. "We started talking about vision and how we feel the industry has changed. ... We got our heads together for the course of six months, strategizing, conceptualizing, and putting together a terrific team," Glickman says.

The two companies are also working with Thinkwell Design & Production, a firm that helps develop special attractions and themed-retail environment, such as the Snow Park at Ski Dubai in Dubai and Samsung Experience at New York's Time Warner Center.

David Bodamer

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