BIG USA, M&J Wilkow Acquire Interest in 1 MSF Pittsburgh Shopping Center

BIG Shopping Centers USA and M&J Wilkow teamed up to buy 765,000 square feet of a million-square foot shopping center in Pa.

BIG Shopping Centers USA, an investment firm headquartered in Beverly Hills, Calif., and M&J Wilkow, a full-service real estate company headquartered in Chicago, have teamed on a joint venture to purchase 765,000 square feet of a 1.4 million-square foot, open-air shopping center in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Known as The Waterfront, the property is situated on 265 acres along the Monongahela River and is the region’s second largest shopping center. The property is located on the former site of U.S. Steel’s Homestead Steel Works, once the largest steel mill in the world.

“The Waterfront is a high profile development in a strong retail market that creates the ideal long-term hold opportunity,” Stanley L. McElroy, Jr., BIG Shopping Centers USA’s president, told Commercial Property Executive. “Pittsburgh has become a model for a diversified economy, strong job growth and educated work force. With the strength of the retail market benefitting from the local economy coupled with a low unemployment rate, we feel extremely confident about this investment.

This is the first partnership between the two companies and McElroy believes it’s their synergy that will help the deal be successful for both.

“We are confident that our combined skillsets are the right formula to reinvigorate The Waterfront and bring it to a higher level,” McElroy said. “BIG brings a wealth of retail experience while M&J Wilkow brings its operational and management acumen—along with local experience and knowledge—to the partnership.”

Located seven miles from downtown Pittsburgh and across the Homestead Greys Bridge from Squirrel Hill, Shadyside and Oakland, The Waterfront stretches across Homestead, West Homestead and Munhall boroughs.

“The Waterfront was built to serve primarily the east-end communities of Pittsburgh,” McElroy said. “The Waterfront is part of a mixed-use development that is almost a submarket or city within itself. The typography—265 acres of flat land only seven miles from downtown—can’t be duplicated on a similar scale within 10-15 miles.”

In addition to approximately 70 shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, The Waterfront also includes 300 Class A residential units, more than 600,000 square feet of Class A office and research and development space and three hotels.

“BIG Shopping Centers USA seeks long-term hold type of retail real estate investments; we’re not a market-time opportunist investor,” McElroy said. “We believe in buying the right shopping center with the right fundamentals in a solid trade area that has demonstrated long-term economic growth, job growth and sustainability. The Waterfront fits these criteria.”

Anchored by Target, Lowe’s Home Improvement and Giant Eagle, the power center features TJ Maxx, DSW, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Marshalls, Bed Bath & Beyond, Office Depot, PETCO, Old Navy and Best Buy. The lifestyle component integrates soft goods with entertainment and dining amenities featuring an upscale AMC Loews Theatres, Barnes & Noble, ULTA, The Gap, PF Changs, BRAVO!, Cucina Italiana, Dave & Buster’s, Rock Bottom Brewery and Panera Bread.

Lowe’s Home Improvement, Target, Giant Eagle, Macy’s, Costco and several outparcels were not included in the sale.

“There will be changes to the property to create an environment where customers want to spend time with family and friends,” McElroy added. “We see a real opportunity to create not only a better place to shop, but a new community partner in The Waterfront. We are finalizing our strategic plan for the property but expect preliminary changes to be apparent in 2012.”

McElroy expects that not only will the center be a gathering place for shopping, dining, entertainment and service amenities, but also a responsible community partner through sponsorships and community participation.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.