Al Pfeffer's T-Shirts Plus was one of the original tenants when the Nebraska Crossing outlet mall opened in Gretna in 1993, but now he's preparing to move the screen-printing and embroidery shop out of the mall.
He's not alone. Many of the last 16 tenants to lease space in the mall, once home to 53 stores, have been asked to leave to make way for a $70 million redevelopment project. Others don't want to get left behind, so they're scattering to locations around the metro. At least one shop expects to close permanently.
“It's getting smaller every day,” Pfeffer said.
Site preparation work will start in November and construction is expected to start in January, said developer Rod Yates of OTB Destination of Scottsdale, Ariz. A grand opening is expected around Halloween 2013, he said.
The project, originally announced in late 2010, is expected to nearly double the distressed mall's size to 325,000 square feet. Developers have talked about bringing in about 50 new stores, three restaurants and two hotels.
In May, Yates announced that the retail lineup would include factory outlet stores for Brooks Brothers, Banana Republic, Gap, Lane Bryant, Chico's and White House Black Market. Yates said Friday he would have more information in coming weeks about other tenants.
On the move
Nebraska Crossing tenants moving to new locations include:
• Dance by Design: 13633 S. 217th St.
• K&K House of Trophies & Sports: 180th Street and West Center Road
• Mail Order Comics: 4515 S. 119th Circle
• Miche Nebraska: 104 Glenmore Drive
• T-Shirts Plus: 11532 Willow Park Drive, Suite 200
Meanwhile, there has been no news about progress at another potential outlet mall development in La Vista.
Southport West was proposed as a 137-acre mixed-use development, to include an “upscale outlet center,” near the existing Cabela's.
La Vista officials and local developers referred questions to developer Cordish Cos. of Baltimore, which did not respond to requests for information.
Omaha real estate experts have said they believe the area can support only one outlet mall.
La Vista Mayor Doug Kindig said that he had no new information about the project but that negotiations remain under way. “We remain confident in the synergy and continued development of this area as a dynamic regional tourism destination,” he said.
Gretna Mayor Sally McGuire said that preliminary plans have been filed for the Nebraska Crossing project but that final plans have not been approved and no building permits have been issued.
“Everybody's working very hard to get that done,” she said. “We're looking forward to the center being here. It will bring a lot of people into the community. It will provide quite a few jobs.”
Some tenants are skeptical and say they are confused by a lack of information from the mall's Omaha management company, which referred questions to OTB. Several tenants that have month-to-month leases said they hadn't yet been asked to vacate.
“I won't believe it until I see bulldozers,” said Brent Hassler, owner of Bargain Mart Tools. The Jerky Factory owner Mark Hula agreed and said he didn't think a redevelopment would be profitable.
But shop owner Kevin Iliff isn't waiting for a notice for his K&K House of Trophies and Sports, which has a month-to-month lease.
“We decided to move because a lot of the stores are leaving and a lot have already left,” he said. “I don't want to be the last store out there.”
K&K manager Mary Gann added that most of the locally owned stores will be leaving the center for good: “We haven't heard anything from them as far as whether they would welcome us back.”
Some national retailers, including Kitchen Connection, have already left. Store employees at Carter's and OshKosh B'gosh said they were not allowed to talk about when they were closing, but several other tenants said both children's clothing outlets plan to close Oct. 13. A saleswoman at the L'Eggs and Hanes outlet store said that shop would close Oct. 13 and not immediately relocate in the Omaha area.
Tenants with long-term leases have been given 90-day notices to vacate by the end of October. Mitch Meyer, owner of Mail Order Comics, got the notice in August but isn't waiting until the end of the month to move.
He said his move this weekend would be a positive change. “It's an inconvenience, but I don't think it will be detrimental.”
Miche Nebraska handbag seller will keep its Miche & More showroom open as long as possible, said owner Kelly Bartsch, who had not received any notice to leave. But in the meantime she is opening a second location in mid-October that she said would have a “theme party” retail shopping experience.
The construction will put an end to at least one business. Michelle Webster will close her Polka Dot Giraffe children's clothing and home decor boutique by the end of October. She said she can't afford to reopen in another center with higher rent prices.
“Any time you open a business, you're taking a risk, and I'm just not in a position to do that,” she said.
The Sarpy County tourism office and the Dove Auto used car dealership both are looking for new space.
Dove salesman Bob Peetz said the dealership has not yet been given notice to leave but that its owner is scouting new locations and is happy about the investment in Gretna.
Dove wouldn't plan to come back to the redeveloped mall, which has been described as a high-tech destination shopping center. “We don't fit into the plans. It's understandable.”
Pfeffer, owner of T-Shirts Plus, received a 90-day notice to vacate.
The retired Airman remembers when the mall was full, with national name-brand shops and even a food court, and agreed he's happy to see the project get under way.
“I really hope they get it done,” he said. “It would be great for the area.”
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