REAL ESTATE

Mall owner to acquire four Sears stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Washington Prime Group Inc. has signed an agreement to acquire four Sears stores in a sale-leaseback transaction.

Under the terms of the deal, whose purchase price was put at $28.5 million, Sears will continue to operate the properties (for a time) under new leases with Washington Prime, which will have control of the sites for future redevelopment. Aggregate base rent under these leases is approximately $1.25 million per year.

In addition, Sears will be responsible for paying common area maintenance charges, taxes, insurance and utilities. The four stores are located at Longview Mall, in Longview, Texas; Polaris Fashion Place, located in Columbus, Ohio; Southern Hills Mall, located in Sioux City, Iowa; and Town Center at Aurora, located in Aurora, Colorado. All four include adjacent Sears Auto Centers.

“When Washington Prime Group is presented with the opportunity to improve a Tier One asset via retrofit of an underutilized department store space, it is imperative we act accordingly,” said Lou Conforti, CEO and director, Washington Prime. “Sears will continue to operate these locations for a period of time that provides us with a suitable timeframe to evaluate the best adaptive reuse.”

Washington Prime said plans for the redevelopment of the four properties will be announced in the future.

Upon completion of the acquisition, Washington Prime will have the right to terminate each store lease under certain circumstances as stated in each lease. Termination cannot occur between November 1 of a calendar year and January 15 of the next following calendar year. In the event Sears decides to no longer operate these locations, the company will have the right to terminate the applicable lease upon 30 days’ prior written notice.

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REAL ESTATE

Swim school concept launches national expansion

BY Al Urbanski

Only lately have in-line shopping center tenants come to the realization that the traffic drawn by fitness operations merit the parking spaces they take up. Now here comes a fitness concept whose staffers alone constitute a decent customer base for fellow tenants.

Forty swim instructors and three managers conduct 2,000 lessons a week at each of the four locations that Big Blue Swim School operates in Illinois. Former member of the U.S. national swim team Chris DeJong founded Big Blue with old friend John Lonergan in a mission to teach kids how to swim his way.

Special features of Big Blue schools are water that’s always 91-degrees and shallow throughout the pool, comfortable parent viewing areas equipped with WiFi, and toys and activities for waiting siblings. Swimmers get individual changing rooms.

With financial backing from Level 5 partners, DeJong and Lonergan have embarked on a plan to expand to Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Denver with 17 new locations by 2021. Their ultimate goal is 300 to 500 Big Blue Swim Schools nationwide.

“We’re about more than what a typical retailer can offer. We offer families easy access to a vitally important life skill which can’t be outsourced or purchased through the mail,” DeJong said.

Big Blue’s Illinois locations are in Wilmette, Niles, Buffalo Grove, and Hoffman Estates.

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Golf retailer increasing store count

BY Marianne Wilson

A retailer that specializes in premium golf club-fitting services is looking to increase its store footprint.

Club Champion said that it plans to open a minimum of 30 stores during the next two years. The Highland Park, Ill.-based retailer, which sells such brands as Callaway, TaylorMade and PING, is about to open its 38th store.

In addition to fittings and selling golf clubs, Club Champion also offers complete club building, customization, and repair services, including re-shafting, re-gripping, wedge grinding, swing weighting, loft and lie adjustments, face angle adjustments, and custom stamping and painting services.

Club Champion targets locations with a heavy saturation of golfers. The typical store footprint is approximately 3,000-sq.-ft., and includes fitting bays equipped with TrackMan launch monitors, SAM PuttLab, build shop and an extensive equipment wall. The store features over 35,000 hittable head and shaft combinations.

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