Levis Commons celebrates five yearsWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Developer Larry Dillin’s vision for a lifestyle shopping center — The Town Center at Levis Common — is celebrating five years in business.
“The original idea came from a resort community in Germany where I was impressed with the open environment that focused on people rather than automobiles,” said Dillin, president of Dillin Corp. “I’m delighted that people in the local marketplace have grasped the concept because we feel that we created something special and unique there.”
Dillin said his company conducted a national search for lifestyle development planners that resulted in the selection of Hill Partners, Inc. from Charlotte, N.C. for the project.
“They had a resume large enough to understand what we wanted to achieve and small enough that this project was important to them,” Dillin said.
Hill Partners is the management company responsible for operating The Town Center and leasing office and retail space.
The Town Center is a 319,000 square-foot open-air lifestyle center that is part of the 400-acre, $500 million J. Preston Levis Commons development.
It is the first master-planned community and one of the largest development projects in Northwest Ohio, according to Dillin Corp.
The partnership has culminated in a successful project for both companies, according to Bob Spratt, president of Hill Partners.
“We did what we do best and that is to create a true mixed-use development at Levis Commons. The beauty of the format is that it continues to evolve,” Spratt said.
The first lifestyle center in Northwest Ohio, Levis Commons is bigger and better today with more business and tenants than when it opened in 2004, according to Charlene Scott, general manager of the center for Hill Partners.
“It’s a great testament to the project as it continues to be a vibrant successful place even in the down economy,” Spratt said.
Almost 90 percent of the 240,650 square feet of retail space and 67 percent of the 68,785 square feet of office space at Levis Commons is leased today.
Scott said it began with 126,000 square feet of retail and 4,130 square feet of office space in 2004.
“The uniqueness was here from day one. We conducted market research to discover retailers that weren’t in the area and unique to the marketplace,” she said.
Levis Commons was able to attract those unique shops because of Hill Partners’ successful relationship with national retailers, such as Books-A-Million, Scott said.
The Town Center has grown since opening in 2004 with a total of 41 businesses, including 29 retailers and services, 11 eating establishments, one hotel and a movie theater.
Levis Commons is anchored by a number of retailers, including Ann Taylor LOFT, Chico’s, Coldwater Creek, Francesca’s Collections, J. Jill, Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Talbots and New York & Company. It also features children’s stores, Gymboree and Stride Rite.
“The beauty is that we were able to incorporate local shops and restaurants to complement the national stores,” Scott said. “We have a nice mix of national brands, but the pleasant surprise for lots of visitors are the local shops with many of the owners living in this community.”
Lifestyle centers like Levis Commons succeed because they offer customers the convenience factor with close parking and shops located along a main street similar to those in downtowns of many small towns, Scott said.
“Levis Commons is reminiscent of downtown Perrysburg because the designers studied the architecture of buildings and types of businesses located there,” Scott said.
The plot thickens
“This area was starved for a bookstore and our location at the front of the center has definitely helped us. Business has been pretty consistent,” said Rick Clayton, general manager of Books-A-Million, which opened in February 2005 after Levis Commons’ opening the previous fall.
“We have something for everyone from one to 100 with books, picture books, ones on tape and with large print,” Clayton said. “People come to the bookstore before the rest of the mall opens on Sunday morning or browse while waiting for tables at the restaurants.”
Books-A-Million in Perrysburg is one of 220 stores across the United States, but the only one in Northwest Ohio. The store employs 20 to 25 people in full- and part-time positions, according to Clayton.
“We’re also a guy location where guys come to hang out while the gals are shopping,” Clayton said. The only other shop for guys is Jos. A. Bank men’s clothing, he said.
Home furniture and accessories stores, such as Arhaus Furniture, Yankee Candle, Kirkland’s Home and Lily’s, offer an assortment of home decorating products. Licata Jewelers is one of the original tenants at the Town Center.
Lily’s home décor store opened May 1 at Levis Commons after moving from its previous location at Fallen Timbers. Judy Church originally opened the store in May 2001 in Sylvania.
“Levis is geared more to the mainstream clientele that we found to be our customers,” said Caleb Church, who is Judy’s son.
Plenty to do
For entertainment, Showcase Cinemas operates a 12-screen theater complex with stadium seating.
Fat Fish Blue Home of the Funny Bone offers live entertainment with family dining.
A wide selection of restaurants and eateries offer a variety of foods and delicacies to satisfy the tastes of gourmet diners or daily lunch customers. That lineup includes Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano, Poco Piatti, Bistro Wasabi and JB’s Sarnie Shoppe.
Smaller specialty shops include Maggie Moo’s Ice Cream and Schakolad Chocolate Factory.
The Hilton Garden Inn hotel opened in the entertainment district at Levis Commons in August 2008. The hotel has 184 guest rooms, a 9,800 square-foot ballroom and 18,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.
In addition to the Town Center, there are more than 500 residential units in three separate developments at Levis Commons, according to Hill Partners.
In the Brownstone Village, 16 of the 18 single family homes are occupied with two still available for purchase. All 334 of the one- and three-bedroom apartments and townhomes in the Preston Gardens Apartments are leased.
The Waterford at Levis Commons Senior Living Options includes 101 independent living and 45 assisted living apartments.
Hill Partners emphasizes consumer marketing to bring people there for events other than the retail and restaurants, Spratt said.
He was referring to special events and marketing promotions, including the annual art fair in the spring that drew 40,000 visitors, Making Strides, Fall Festival and Tree Lighting Ceremony, all family friendly. Those events have helped 30 area charities during the past five years.
“We don’t just take, but we give back to the community,” Scott said. “We brought a commitment to the community and nonprofits that benefit from many of the special events held here, such as the recent wine tasting to benefit Make-A-Wish. That’s what differentiates Levis Commons from other shopping centers.”
Levis is getting ready for the “Give a Little. Get a Lot.” promotion that will benefit numerous local charities, according to Casey Pogan, marketing director at Levis Commons. The center will soon be selling tickets for the after-hours shopping event which is Nov. 15 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. People can buy tickets from participating charities for special discounts at the retailers. It is open to any nonprofit with the charities keeping all proceeds from the ticket they sell, Pogan said.
Levis Commons is also expanding its reach by branching into the social network media including Facebook and Twitter, in addition to its new Web site in order to make it more relevant to people, Pogan said.
“Levis Commons is the complete package representing life simplified by providing a place where people can shop, eat, work and live,” Pogan said.
For more information, visit www.shopleviscommons.com.