May 21, 2014
The struggles of the Shoppes at River Ridge in Dublin sent up red flags for Derek Rapkin and his partners as they scouted central Ohio for a location for their Pint Room restaurant.
“People said ‘Don’t go in there. It’s a dead mall,’ ” Rapkin said.
Nevertheless, they decided on River Ridge and opened in late 2012.
“Fast forward a couple of years, and it’s now a prime spot in Dublin,” Rapkin said of the center, which was purchased by Florida-based Mast Capital in December 2011 for $6.1 million.
“The center is doing great,” along with business at the Pint Room, he said.
One reason is that Mast has turned its back on the retail-only concept and has gone after a variety of businesses.
It has signed several new tenants in recent months, including Cardinal Health, which will open Fuse, a technology-development center with 100 employees; two medical practices; a Coldwell Banker King Thompson real-estate office; Harbor Yoga; and a branch of FCBank.
All are set to open at River Ridge in the next several months.
The occupancy rate at the approximately 100,000-square-foot center is 87 percent, up from 45 percent when Mast purchased the center.
“There are only two spots open, and we’re talking to a furniture store about one of them,” said Bruce Gago, a Mast Capital vice president.
Other longer-term tenants include Montgomery Inn, Bruegger’s Bagels, Ann Taylor and Jos. A. Bank.
Wendy’s opened its new flagship store in the center in August. It includes a community room filled with memorabilia from the company and Dave Thomas, as well as a statue outside of the burger chain’s famous founder, creating a tourist attraction.
“The mall seems to be more vibrant,” Wendy’s spokesman Bob Bertini said. “There certainly seems to be new tenants, and we feel we’re part of the growth.”
The recession hit soon after River Ridge opened in 2007, while developers struggled with a location that was set back and hard to see from Rts. 33 and 161.
“It was developed as a lifestyle center, a mini-Easton, and that wasn’t successful for a number of reasons, the biggest one being the recession,” Gago said. “We realized we’d have to look at non-traditional tenants.”
One local observer says that was wise.
“I think it was a mistake by the original owner to try and develop the site as retail-only,” said Chris Boring, principal of Boulevard Strategies, a Columbus-based retail-consulting firm. “The site has access and visibility issues that make it difficult to develop entirely with traditional retail.”
The mixed-use concept “is a move in the right direction,” he said.
Because River Ridge is fairly new, it didn’t require much renovation, Gago said, adding that the biggest change has been a larger, more visible sign.
“We liked the confluence of shops along with restaurants and businesses, all in a nice, walkable setting that’s still near our corporate headquarters,” said Brent Stutz, Cardinal’s vice president of commercial technologies. “We believe that the more accessible ‘feel’ of the physical space will help attract the type of creative talent we are looking for.”
Dublin’s ongoing Bridge Street Project has helped to create development outside the traditional city-center core west of the Scioto River.
The city envisions a 1,100-acre district that spans both sides of the Scioto. River Ridge is just east of the river. The goal of the Bridge Street Project is to create a mixed-use area that could include up to 8,000 residential units that would add 12,000 residents over the next 10 to 20 years.
For most businesses in the past, “The site preference was always the other side of the river,” said Jerry White, a Coldwell Banker King Thompson executive vice president. “Now, the Bridge Street Project is doing things on (the east) side, and the whole area has that downtown feel and there’s a lot of major growth.”
The Coldwell Banker King Thompson office is set to open in August.
“We like the mix,” White said of the tenant base. “Each one draws a number of different people, whether it’s clothing places, restaurants or offices, and they’ll all come in and see the other places that are here.”