New owner envisions Boulevard mall, now ‘all beat up,’ as retail/entertainment hub

Courtesy Image

A rendering of the Boulevard Mall remodeled.

The Boulevard mall used to be one of Las Vegas’ top shopping spots, but these days is frequently dismissed as dated and run down.

Developer Roland Sansone knows this all too well — and he’s betting tens of millions of dollars that he can change some minds and restore the mall to its “former glory.”

Boulevard Mall

Two shoppers check out the jewelry counter inside the Boulevard mall during Black Friday. Launch slideshow »

Sansone’s namesake Henderson company bought the mall in November for $54.5 million, and he says he is working to sign a slate of new tenants, including restaurants, a movie theater, a bowling alley, a miniature golf course and a Hispanic and Filipino supermarket.

He also wants to repaint the property, resurface and restripe the parking lot, install new landscaping and signage, and jazz up the food court with big-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. Moreover, he wants a farmers market area with a playground, surrounded by 6-foot-high wrought-iron fence.

If everything goes as planned, he will inject a much-needed boost of business to Boulevard by making it an entertainment destination, not just a place to shop.

“The whole idea now is to create a good experience coming to this mall with your family,” he said.

Sansone wants to start the roughly $25 million overhaul by this summer and finish next spring. Clark County commissioners today approved the farmers market; designs for the landscaping and parking-lot upgrades; and waivers for a 52-foot-high sign with LED video.

Boulevard, two miles east of the Strip, opened in the 1960s and was hugely popular through the '70s, turning Maryland Parkway into the valley’s premiere retail corridor.

But the mall eventually lost its standing with shoppers, who fled for fast-growing suburbs and Fashion Show mall on the Strip. The property also had financial woes as retailers packed up and left.

Today, its most notable vacancy is a two-level department store that was most recently occupied in 2008, by Dillard’s.

Sansone bought the property from lenders who listed the mall at a price of “best offer.” They had acquired it last year from New York-based Rouse Properties, taking ownership through a process that lets people acquire debt-laden real estate without going through the lengthy foreclosure process.

The 1.2 million-square-foot mall sits on 75 acres of land, but the Sansone Cos. acquired 56 acres, or about 780,400 square feet of space. Retailers Sears and Macy’s own their properties.

Sansone spoke with VEGAS INC on Tuesday about his plans for the mall. Edited excerpts:

Map of The Boulevard Mall

The Boulevard Mall

3528 South Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas

You’ve said the mall needs major upgrades to be more popular with shoppers. What did you see was needed, either aesthetically or with the tenant-mix?

It’s been 46 years since its last paint-job; we have to power-wash the outside walls just to get the new paint to stick. We will renovate the exterior and parts of the interior; we’ll renovate the parking lot, sidewalks and curbs. It’s all beat up.

You’re planning to bring a farmers market. Where will it go, and what’s the motivation behind that?

It will be out by the front entrance of the mall. We feel that there are a lot of vendors who would rent small space, like what they’re doing at the Downtown Container Park. It’s extremely inexpensive leasing — we’re talking $40 a day, and that’s all-inclusive. We’d provide Wi-Fi for them, electricity and so on.

Which new retailers are you bringing to the mall?

We have some lined up, but we do not have them signed. I’d prefer not to say who they are until they’ve actually signed, but we’re aggressively going after them. We want movie theaters, bowling, miniature golf. We feel people will come here for an entertainment experience — watch a movie, eat at a restaurant, do things with their kids and go shopping. You’ll have a great experience here, and you’ll have value for your money. If it’s overpriced, it will never sell in this mall, I can tell you that.

How do you convince people who have moved to the outer rings of the valley that they should shop at Boulevard? A lot of people, even if they never go there, perceive the mall as a has-been, or they think it’s in a bad area.

This mall has had no major incidents for more than 10 years. It’s actually a good area, more than people realize. It’s no different from other parts of the valley. However, I need to change the look of the mall. My thought is, if you live out in Anthem, Seven Hills, Green Valley, old Henderson, you’ll come here because there will be more to do than just shop. You’ll feel good about how it looks, you’ll feel safe parking your car.

What are your plans for the empty Dillard’s space?

We’re moving right now to turn the second floor into office space — you can work there, walk to the food court, go shopping. The first floor will still be retail, but we’re breaking it up into small pieces so we can lease it out.

What got you interested in buying the mall?

It’s an opportunity to make a difference in that part of the valley. I believe in the Maryland (Parkway) corridor and the redevelopment efforts out there; it’s a major arterial, cuts south to north through Las Vegas, and goes all the way to downtown.

You paid a relatively small amount for the property. Did you see this as a good deal?

Yes. I saw this as a great opportunity in a great location near the airport and the Strip. There are a lot of people wrapped around this mall who will go here instead of other malls, once we make these changes. Also, my rents are substantially cheaper than other malls. We’re charging $1 per square foot. Because of what I bought the mall for, I can offer below-market lease rates.