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AGrand Experience

BY Katherine Boccaccio

When developer McWhinney Enterprises first conceived the design, the amenities and the feel of Grand Station at Centerra, the mixed-use project in the company’s hometown of Loveland, Colo., it focused on one user in particular—the office tenant. An uncommon approach to establishing the image of an entire development, envisioning the type of person who would occupy the office space allowed the developer to give a face and a personality to a million square feet of retail, office, residential and hospitality.

According to Jack Wolfe, president of commercial/mixed-use development for McWhinney, “We’re going after the creative class of office-space user,” he said. The creative class counts architects, interior designers and advertising agencies among its ranks—“the kind of professional who is wearing an iPod,” added Wolfe. “These are people who appreciate an experience: When they go out for a cup of coffee, they want an experience. When they go to lunch or run next door to work out, they want it to be an experience.”

Indeed, experience is what Grand Station at Centerra will be built around. Anchored by Hotel Valencia, the development will include 480,000 sq. ft. of retail, dining and entertainment, a premier fitness center called Club One, and such unique amenities as an authentic, operating double-decker streetcar, the 60-ft.-tall Grand Clock Tower, and a central gathering area coined Grand Square surrounded by cobblestone streets that encase a pavilion, open areas, firepit and an interactive water feature.

Grand Station at Centerra

Location: Loveland, Colo., at Interstate 25 and US-34Size: 1 million sq. ft. on 60 acres, comprised of 480,000 sq. ft. of retail, dining and entertainment, 145,000 sq. ft. of office and 100,000 sq. ft. of medical, plus residential and hotelsDeveloper: McWhinney EnterprisesMajor tenants: Anchoring the development is Hotel Valencia, a boutique luxury hotel, joined by Club One health-and-fitness center. Retail lineup to be announced.Status: Grand opening is slated for fall 2009.Project highlights: Located within Centerra, the McWhinney master-planned community, and adjacent to the Poag & McEwen and McWhinney joint-ventured Promenade Shops at Centerra, Grand Station at Centerra will be a LEED-certified mixed-use development unique to northern Colorado. Shopping, dining, entertainment, hospitality, office and medical, fitness, civic and living opportunities are set off by such special amenities as a Grand Square, Grand Streetcar and a Grand Clock Tower.

The overall design of Grand Station at Centerra references Colorado’s historic train depots. While the adjacent, and much-heralded, lifestyle center joint-ventured by McWhinney and Memphis, Tenn.-based Poag & McEwen— The Promenade Shops at Centerra—features a breezy, Main Street look, Grand Station bases its design on northern Colorado’s railway history and other local influences.

“[In creating Grand Station at Centerra], we wanted something that would be the heart and soul of Centerra,” said Wolfe. Centerra is the 4,000-acre master-planned community, developed exclusively by McWhinney Enterprises. “We knew we had to create a great experience and a reason for people to come.

“Geographically, we’re at the 100% corner of northern Colorado, sitting adjacent to Interstate 25 at the major turnoff to the Rocky Mountain National Park.”

The planned community’s proximity to the Rockies makes it a natural attraction to the 100,000-plus cars that drive by each day. The LEED-certification of its mixed-use project gains Centerra favor from both the City of Loveland and from environmentally conscious Coloradans. “Building for sustainability is important not just to the people who live, work, shop and eat here,” said Wolfe, “but also to us as developers. Sustainability is what we all need to be striving for.”

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Weekly Retail Fix

BY CSA STAFF

THE NEWS: SAM’S REALIGNS STORE-LEVEL MANAGEMENT

BENTONVILLE, ARK. Sam’s Club is changing the management structure in its stores. In the realignment, approximately 250 positions will be eliminated, Wal-Mart Stores announced last week. The company said it’s replacing five lower level management positions at each Sam’s Club location with three new higher level and higher paying assistant manager positions.

“This is not a cost cutting effort. We expect a slight increase in payroll upon completion of this change,” said Sharon Orlopp, senior vp of Sam’s people division.

THE FIX: Differentiation would better help Sam’s

Since Sam’s decided that its refocus on the business customer was too narrow, it has sought to find ways to make its clubs more attractive to primary shoppers, i.e., women. And that’s a pretty tough row to hoe, as Costco has done a pretty good job at satisfying the club customer in general and BJ’s has been going after female shoppers for several years now, with some success.

Having fewer managers with more direct responsibility could create a tighter knit club-level management and shorten lines of responsibility and accountability. Yet, without differentiating the offering, execution isn’t going to overcome all of Sam’s challenges.

That being said, a store-level management realignment might be overlooked at other retailers, but, this being Wal-Mart, everyone has to make a big deal about it. But that’s the price you pay as the big guy on the block.

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Weekly Retail Fix

BY CSA STAFF

THE NEWS: TOYS ‘R’ US EARNINGS GAIN 40.1%

WAYNE, N.J. Toys “R” Us today posted net earnings of $199 million for its critical fourth quarter, which meant it turned a profit for the fiscal year ended Feb. 3. But special charges and gains had an impact on its numbers.

Sales for the previous fiscal annum were $142 million, the difference translating into a net earnings increase of 40.1% year over year. For the last fiscal year, Toys “R” Us posted net earnings of $85 million versus a net loss of $384 million for the previous period.

Operating earnings in the fiscal 2006 fourth quarter gained 53.1% to $571 million versus $373 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2005. For the last fiscal year, operating earnings were $649 million versus an operating loss of $142 million for the previous period.

THE FIX: Improved shopper experience ups comps

Of course, any observer has to take into consideration special financial circumstances. Fiscal 2006 operating earnings were positively impacted by $96 million from gains on property sales, slightly offset by restructuring and other charges. In fiscal 2005, operating earnings were negatively impacted by $410 million in costs relating to the merger of the company, as well as $58 million of costs and charges relating to contract settlement fees, restructuring and other charges.

Still, sales were trending up at last year’s end. Net sales gained 15.8% to $5.7 billion. In the full fiscal year, net sales advanced to $13 billion, up 15.2%.

Comparable-store sales for the Toys “R” Us’ U.S. division gained 0.6% in fiscal 2006, and that represents the division’s first comps increase in six years. Comps at Babies “R” Us were up 4.8% and those at Toys “R” Us international were up 2.6% for the fiscal year.

Jerry Storch, chairman and ceo of Toys “R” Us, said the company is “pleased with the strides we made in fiscal 2006 to improve at all levels of the organization and reposition the company for profitable growth over the long term.”

He said the company’s new management team has been focusing on executing a strategy that would turn the retailer into a global toy and baby products authority.

“This translated into higher overall sales, positive comparable-store sales, improved gross margins and strong operating earnings growth for the 2006 fiscal year,” Storch asserted. “The key to our strategy has been improving the customer shopping experience in our stores. We are accomplishing this by delivering a more compelling merchandise selection, better service and a cleaner and more comfortable shopping environment.”

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