Simon Unveils Expansion Plan

In an unprecedented period of redevelopment and expansion, Simon Property Group is revealing its investment plan in retail.
Sean Pattap

Sean Pattap, Fitch Ratings

By Keith Loria, Contributing Editor

In an unprecedented period of redevelopment and expansion, Simon Property Group is investing approximately $1 billion annually to enhance its domestic platforms consisting of its malls, premium outlets and Mills shopping center brand.

“We continue to invest in our properties to improve their market position, enrich the shopping experience and reinforce Simon as the destination of choice for both our shoppers and our retailers,” David Simon, Simon’s chairman & CEO, said in a company statement.

The Mills at Jersey Gardens in Elizabeth, N.J. will increase its property by 411,000 square feet of new outlet brands, dining and entertainment to its current footprint of more than 200 stores and 1.3 million square feet. The work is expected to be completed in 2018.

In Hackensack, N.J., Simon will begin construction at The Shops at Riverside, a multi-use, multi-level space, which will house a variety of retail, restaurant and entertainment concepts including AMC Theatres and Pinstripes, an upscale restaurant and entertainment destination. The development is set to begin this summer with an opening scheduled for late 2016.

In Texas, expansion plans are underway for La Plaza Mall in the Rio Grande Valley , which will add a new wing that will accommodate an 80,000-square-foot, two-level anchor, two junior anchors, 50 to 60 specialty stores and four to eight restaurants. Another expansion will follow with another 20 to 25 shops and several restaurants. Also in the state, at the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, a 125,000-square-foot expansion will add a collection of fine retailers and restaurants.

Simon has also completed the first two phases of an expansion of its Las Vegas North Premium Outlets, with 25 new stores opening, including Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio, Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th and The Cheesecake Factory.

In addition to stores and restaurants, the expansion also includes amenities such as the newly completed 782-space parking garage, featuring Park Assist, a technology that helps motorists know the number and location of available spaces.

According to Fitch Ratings, Simon’s long-term IDR received an “A” due to the company’s strong quality of its retail real estate portfolio that generates robust cash flow in excess of fixed charges, as well as the company’s significant scale and market-leading access to capital. Fitch assumes $1-$1.5 billion in annual development funded predominately with retained cash flow, generating 9 percent stabilized yields.

“Redevelopment along with the locations of SPG’s portfolio, tenant mix, and property level savings stemming from SPG’s significant scale, are key drivers of SPG’s outperformance relative to U.S. mall peers as outlined under ‘Strong Asset Quality,’” Sean Pattap, FitchRatings’ senior director, U.S. REITs, told Commercial Property Executive. “Simon’s development pipeline primarily consists of redevelopment projects across almost all segments, and this program should improve asset quality going forward.”