La Vista Mayor Doug Kindig has doubted an outlet mall was going to come together at Southport West since the beginning of the year.
No formal announcement was ever made that The Cordish Cos. was pulling out of the project, Kindig said. But an agreement between Cordish and local developers never came together.
Meanwhile, an outlet mall in Gretna has announced a litany of tenants.
That project, the Smart Outlets at Nebraska Crossing, was announced in December 2010, which prompted La Vista to move forward with its own announcement in January 2011.
Mitch Beaumont, the city’s community relations coordinator, said La Vista had to announce the proposed outlet mall to stay competitive with the Nebraska Crossing project.
“We prefer to never announce anything before we’re ready to put a shovel in the ground,” he said. “We had to announce the project sooner than we were comfortable doing so.”
Since then, a development process that usually would occur behind closed doors played out in the public eye.
Kindig said many developers approach La Vista, and nearly all of those projects don’t come to fruition.
“We don’t get all of them,” Kindig said. “That doesn’t mean it’s a failure.”
Likewise, Kindig said the lack of further progress at Southport isn’t a failure. He said the city was “by no means” back to square one on the project.
“We’ve continued to recruit partners and other businesses,” Kindig said. “We didn’t put all our eggs into one basket.”
Cordish had been negotiating with two development companies — Southport West Partners LLC and SPW Partners LLC — which both are owned by Dennis Hoth and Dean Hokanson.
Those developers and Cordish signed a nonbinding memorandum with the city, which the La Vista City Council approved on Feb. 1, 2011.
The memo outlined plans for a $104 million “one of a kind regional visitor destination” made up of a 300,000-square-foot outlet mall and 60,000-square-foot entertainment district. The outlet mall was to feature four “marquee tenants” each with at least 50,000-square-foot stores.
Cordish was also behind the Power and Light District in Kansas City, Mo., and pledged to bring a similar upscale mix of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and shopping, as well as a movie theater.
Marcus Theaters owns land, through Marcus Southport LLC, in the proposed area for the entertainment district, according to property records.
While the Southport land sat vacant waiting on an announcement, Gretna’s mall moved forward.
In May 2012, Nebraska Crossing named six outlets committed to the project, with 18 more stores announced in January 2013.
Current plans call for the outlet mall to have 65 stores — more than twice the original plans — when it opens Nov. 15. Developer OTB Destination has even considered expanding the new outlet mall to accommodate 20 additional stores by late 2014.
Cordish, meanwhile, maintained that work was taking place behind the scenes, although no store names were ever released. It issued a statement in March 2012 that said they planned to start construction that year, creating hundreds of new jobs and about 1.2 million visitors to La Vista.
The statement said prospective tenants’ responses were “overwhelming.”
Kindig said he remained optimistic at first, but over time the writing on the wall became clear.
“Nine months ago, when Gretna put a spade in the ground, I was pretty sure we weren’t going to get it,” Kindig said.
But the developers said there was hope, which is why, when asked about Gretna announcing 18 factory stores earlier this year, Kindig said he still expected La Vista to have outlets.
“We still have a great piece of ground out there,” Kindig told the La Vista Sun in January 2013.
Since then, the end of the city’s relationship with Cordish has been less public than its beginning. In fact, the La Vista project was listed on the Cordish website as of Tuesday morning.
“It just became clear that it wasn’t going to happen,” Beaumont said.
Kindig said Cordish focused on other projects, such as a casino in Maryland, and the company hasn’t had contact with him for more than a year.
“It just never rose to the top of their priority list,” he said.
Nevertheless, the city still has high hopes for the Southport West properties, and the area remains critical for the city’s future economic growth.
Kindig said the loss of the outlet mall is not a failure because of the promise the Interstate 80-Harrison Street interchange still holds for development.
“We still have the best interchange in the Omaha metropolitan area,” Kindig said. “It’s way too good of a piece of land not to succeed.”
The current plan for Southport West is an entertainment district, with concert venues, bars, restaurants, open areas and clubs, which was part of the original overall plan for the area.
However, Kindig expects new partners will be brought in for the project.
“I do not expect The Cordish Cos. to be involved in the entertainment district,” Kindig said.
Wendy Richey, president of the Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce, said having both an entertainment district in La Vista and the outlets in Gretna might be ideal for the county.
The success of retail stores can go up and down with the economy, Richey said, and the area couldn’t support two outlet malls. However, the interchange is “one of the best places” for an entertainment district, located near Werner Park and the Embassy Suites.
“The timing for Sarpy County is right now,” she said. “It would be a win-win for the whole metro area.”
Alternatively, she said the Southport West area could be used for office space. The area is central and accessible from Lincoln, downtown Omaha and the outskirts of Nebraska, Richey said.
Hokanson did not return requests for an interview.