There’s a there, there — new owners for Southlands Mall

Last week, M & J Wilkow, Ltd. the company, along with MetLife Investment Management, purchased the shopping center from Northwood Retail for $141 million.

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AURORA | With thousands of cars cruising by on the E-470 toll road everyday and a steady stream of new rooftops in the neighborhood, Southlands Mall doesn’t struggle to lure shoppers.

And now, the bustling shopping center in the southeast corner of Aurora has new owners.

Last week, M & J Wilkow, Ltd. the company, along with MetLife Investment Management, purchased the shopping center from Northwood Retail for $141 million.

The 12-year-old shopping center at Smoky Hill and E470 has 1.7 million square feet of retail and office space and is home to dozens of stores, including AMC Theatres, H&M, Bed Bath & Beyond, Barnes & Noble, Ross Dress for Less, Ulta and Best Buy.

M & J Wilkow Executive Vice President, Gregg Wilkow said the purchase is part of the company’s focus on metro Denver, where they previously owned and managed Triad at Orchard Station, a 415,000-square-foot office park in Greenwood Village.

The Southlands purchase comes on the heels of M & J Wilkow buying Cherry Creek Corporate Center in Glendale. That purchase was a joint venture with a fund managed by DRA Advisors LLC and saw the group buy a 238,302-square-foot, 12-story office tower and 4-story parking garage five miles from Downtown Denver. The 30-year-old office park recently underwent a $15-million renovation and is 85-percent full with 35,000 square feet of available office space for lease. 

Wilkow said the company sees metro Denver as an exciting market.

“With strong in-migration and job creation, Denver continues to perform as one of the most exciting growth markets in the country.  This is clearly evident in the residential communities surrounding the Southlands, where new home construction continues at a record pace and the affluent residential population is growing rapidly,” he said.

And in the case of Southlands, he said the mall has room to grow.

“Southlands’ position in the path of growth and the strong existing tenant base coupled with the potential to make further upgrades to the shopping experience, all contributed to our pursuit of this flagship retail asset,” he said. “We look forward to improving this already exceptional property by adding exciting new tenants and bringing additional amenities to offer our customers an even better experience.”

The purchase marks the third retail center co-owned by M & J Wilkow and MetLife. The pair also own Magnolia Park in Greenville, S.C. and Town Center of Mililani, a shopping district in suburban Oahu, Hawaii. 

Joyce Rocha-Brown, a spokeswoman for Southlands, said the mall has seen steady growth in recent years.

In the first half of 2016 alone the mall added 10 new tenants and today is at 87 percent capacity.

In recent months the mall added two new restaurants in The Lost Cajun and Poke Story.

Like many malls around the country, Southlands was stung a few years ago when Sports Authority went bankrupt, leaving the mall with a massive empty storefront.

But Rocha-Brown said that problem, too, has been remedied. Later this spring Dick’s Sporting Goods is set to move into the old Sports Authority store, she said.

“It’s always good to fill a vacant space,” she said.

And while almost 90 percent of the existing storefronts have tenants, Rocha-Brown said there is still room for the mall to grow and add new buildings.