18 more factory outlet stores commit to Gretna mall

This drawing depicts the layout of the $87 million Smart Outlets at Nebraska Crossing mall that will be built this year near Gretna. When completed in late October at the intersection of Interstate 80 and Nebraska Highways 6 and 31, it should have more than 60 tenants.

The project's goal is 60 new-to-market brands. More retailers are to be announced in February.

Newly-signed outlet-concept stores

Polo Ralph Lauren, Ann Taylor, Loft, J.Crew, Levi's, American Eagle Outfitters, Skechers, Wilsons Leather, Helzberg Diamonds, Kay Jewelers, Gymboree, Carter's, OshKosh, Old Farmer's Almanac, Maurices's, Famous Footwear, Justice, dressbarn, Scooter's Coffee

Announced in May

Gap, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Chico's, White House Black Market, Lane Bryant

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Nebraska Crossing's developers said Thursday they have signed an additional 18 factory outlet stores, including Ann Taylor, J.Crew, Polo Ralph Lauren, American Eagle, Gymboree and Kay Jewelers.

Carter's and OshKosh also will be back. Along with a Scooter's Coffee, that brings the total number of committed tenants for the planned Gretna shopping center to 25. More announcements are expected next month.

When completed in late October, the new $87 million outlet mall at the intersection of Interstate 80 and Nebraska Highways 6 and 31 will have more than 60 tenants in 350,000 square feet and offer customers a fully “wired” shopping experience.

The existing 170,000-square-foot mall, built in 1993, is being readied for demolition. The replacement, which will be new from the ground up, is expected to open Oct. 31.

In May, the mall's developers — Frank Krejci of Omaha's Century Development and Rodney Yates of Arizona-based OTB Destination LLC — said they had signed leases with Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Chico's, the Gap, Lane Bryant and White House Black Market.

At the time, Yates promised to announce additional retailers over subsequent months.

Those announcements never materialized, Yates told The World-Herald on Thursday, because potential retailers did not like the redevelopment plan, which would have added retail space on the mall's south side, but kept intact the existing mall's configuration: a quarter-mile strip.

“The problem was none of the retailers wanted to be at either end of the strip,” Yates said. “They all wanted to be in the middle.”

As a result, the developers decided to build a high-tech outlet mall from the ground up.

The mall also has been renamed and will debut as Smart Outlets at Nebraska Crossing when it opens.

Click on the images below for larger versions of renderings given to The World-Herald.
Megan Hunt


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“We pushed the reset button, and we changed our design from a long, linear design to a racetrack design,” said Yates, who joined Krejci, Avant Architects of Omaha, Kiewit Building Group, Gretna Mayor Jim Timmerman and others connected with the project Thursday at Century Development's office in the Elkhorn area.

“I think it's great,” said Krejci, 86, when asked what he thought of the new design.

Century Development Co. and Omaha's First Management Inc. purchased Nebraska Crossing Factory Stores in 2007 for $3.8million. Krejci and Yates both were bidders on the mall, which is how the two developers met, Yates said. First Management Inc., which handled leasing at Nebraska Crossing for several years, is a 25 percent owner of the center.

The new outlet mall, which was designed by Avant Architects and will be constructed by Kiewit, both Omaha-based, will cluster retail space inside an oblong perimeter. Architectural drawings depict two central buildings ringed by seven bays. Walkways wind through the mall and feature canopies at intervals. More than 1,500 parking spaces will be available.

In addition to the $75 million cost of development, mall developers are investing $12 million in new “customer engagement” mobile and Web-based software that will help shoppers find parking near their favorite entrance and send promotions and discounts to their mobile phones while they shop.

The software also will keep tabs on hungry and foot-weary shoppers and alert them to on-site restaurant and dining deals.

Yates said the outlet mall will function as a giant “bricks-and-mortar website — a smart mall.”

“We're making our shopping center into a living, breathing website,” said Mary Ann O'Brien, chief executive of OBI Creative Marketing Collective. O'Brien's Omaha company has partnered with Yates to design and develop the customer engagement software. The software is being produced by Paris-based Valtech Inc.

The software, dubbed INlet, is intended in large part to take the wild card out of outlet shopping.

A shopper searching for a particular item at a favorite outlet store, for example, won't have to rack up miles on his or her vehicle only to meet with disappointment when an item isn't in stock. Instead, participating retailers could allow a customer to take a virtual tour of the outlet store, check the inventory or order outlet merchandise online for home delivery.

Consenting customers will be able to receive emails or texts announcing specials on items, which they can reserve for pickup or order online.

Electronic display banners 45-feet high along Interstate 80 will point to and promote the Gretna shopping center, which city officials say will be a shot in the arm to the area's economy, providing jobs and eventually returning revenue to the city's coffers.

The developers say Smart Outlets at Nebraska Crossing is expected to lure shoppers from up to two hours away, drawing about 3 million to 4 million visitors each year and generating about $150 million in annual sales. The existing mall was generating about $10 million in sales in recent years, Yates said.

Gretna has put a sales tax incentive in place that was approved by the Legislature in 2010 and endorsed by the city's voters to help fund the development. The tax incentive allows 1.5 percent of local option sales tax generated by the finished project to be used to fund it for 10 years.

“We won't see revenue for several years,” Mayor Timmerman said, “but it will mean jobs.” The outlet mall is expected to employ 400 full-time employees and 400 to 500 part-time workers, Yates said.

Outside the empty mall Thursday, a bright orange bulldozer already had ripped up chunks of asphalt. The mall's last tenants moved out in December.

Yates, a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has a reputation for turning distressed and underperforming properties into moneymakers. He said he also is looking forward to working with Krejci on the redevelopment of Omaha's Crossroads Mall at 72nd and Dodge Streets. Krejci, who developed Oak View Mall, Brentwood Square in La Vista and other projects, purchased Crossroads in 2010 for $9.5 million.

Yates hinted that several retailers who have signed leases at the Gretna outlet mall are considering opening full-price stores at Crossroads Mall. He also indicated that Crossroads Mall will employ the customer engagement software.

Yates said he and Krejci plan to attend a public meeting next week to discuss the city's urban design and redevelopment goals for the 72nd and Dodge Streets area. The meeting is scheduled for Jan. 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the mall's former Old Navy store.

Yates wooed tenants to Legends Outlets Kansas City, which opened in 2006 in Kansas City, Kan. It's part of a district that also includes a Nebraska Furniture Mart and Cabela's.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1142, janice.podsada@owh.com

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