Southridge gets a $52 million facelift

Southridge Mall opened in 1970 along South 76th Street in Greendale. But after 40 years, the 1.4 million-square-foot mall, the largest in Wisconsin, was showing its age and was in danger of decline. Some wondered if the mall would ultimately go the way of Northridge Mall, which opened two years after Southridge but closed in 2003.

“(Southridge’s) value was deteriorating annually,” said Dan Rosenfeld, principal of Mid-American Real Estate.

“It was time for Southridge to upgrade to remain competitive and fresh,” said Southridge Mall general manager Mary Mokwa.

Last year, Indianapolis-based Simon Property Goup Inc., which owns Southridge, began a major renovation of the mall entrances and much of the interior of the mall. At the same time, construction began for a new Macy’s store in the former Younker’s space at the south end of the mall, and Bon-Ton Stores Inc. began renovations to the Boston Store at Southridge.

The entire cost of all of the improvements to Southridge Mall is estimated at $52 million. Minor renovations were done at the mall in 1988 and 2005, but this is the first major renovation of the mall in its 42 years.

The renovation project is nearing completion. The Macy’s store opened in March. New entrances at the south end of the mall are complete. New lighting has been added. The restrooms have been renovated. The addition of new carpeting and tile flooring is 90 percent complete. Work on the food court is about 70 percent complete, and work on two north entrances are 60 percent complete.

The entire mall renovation is about 80 percent complete and will be finished by the end of June, Mokwa said.

The addition of Macy’s has already had a major impact on the mall, she said.

“The store is absolutely beautiful,” Mokwa said. “We’ve had nothing but tremendous feedback from customers and mall employees. They are drawing a higher demographic shopper (to Southridge) from Franklin and Oak Creek. Stores at that end of the mall are reporting higher traffic and increased sales.”

The mall added an H&M store last year and hopes to add several other stores, Mokwa said. The mall wants to add more higher-end stores to attract more affluent shoppers.

“Our goal is to attract all types of shoppers,” Mokwa said.

Southridge will announce more new tenants as leases are signed through the rest of this year and next year, she said.

Simon will probably negotiate deals with tenants to open stores in several of its properties, including Southridge, said Cory Sovine, vice president of Siegel-Gallagher’s retail group.

Southridge plans to add sit-down restaurants to the mall, Mokwa said.

Some stores in the mall have movedor will move to new locations in the mall, including: rue21, Buddy Squirrel and Maurices.

With the renovations to the mall and the new tenants, Southridge has stepped up its game, but Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa and Bayshore Town Center in Glendale remain the top malls in the metro Milwaukee area, Rosenfeld said.

“(Southridge is) just playing catch up clearly,” he said. “It will be a real solid, average performing mall.”

A major advantage for Southridge is its location on the south side of the metro area, Sovine said. There are few competitors to the south between Southridge and the Kenosha area. And many shoppers on the south side of the metro area that previously went to Mayfair, Brookfield Square or other malls may now choose to shop at Southridge, now that the mall is being improved, he said.

“In terms of geographic pull, they probably have a larger area than any other regional mall,” Sovine said. “There’s a lot of growth and a lot of money in the southwest suburbs, and this could shift their shopping pattern. Time will tell. Ultimately it’s the market that will determine if this challenges the (region’s mall) pecking order.”

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