Saturday Night News, Filed 02-02-02, 10:00 PM EST: In a hastily arranged meeting with the Urban Renewal Agency Friday, Cappelli Enterprises reserved the possibility of building a 5-floor City Center, while still keeping in play a 4-floor City Center with a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, pending whether or not Louis Cappelli strikes a deal with the Ritz.
In what the Mayor’s office characterized as simply a matter of bookkeeping with the Urban Renewal Agency, the 3-person URA passed without comment a provision in the Land Disposition Agreement with Cappelli Enterprises Friday morning.
Keeps Open Cappelli Ability to Build a 5-Floor City Center Without New Paperwork.
The provision inserted in the Land Disposition Agreement allows Mr. Cappelli to return to the original 5-floor configuration, should the hotel design collaborations and, presumably, negotiations do not result in a luxury 5-star hotel for the City Center and South residential spire.
George Gretsas, the Mayor’s Executive Officer, said that the provision simply allows Mr. Cappelli to not have to resubmit all the legal paper work to submit a new LDA if he returns to five-floors.
Gretsas Makes Sense of It All.
Gretsas downplayed reading anything of great significance or precedence in the maneuver because, as Gretsas put it, “It’s not really a big deal. The LDA documents basically memorialize the agreement between the city and Cappelli Engerprises. The Common Council will determine whether it’s (the reduction of the number of floors) is a minor site amendment.”
Gretsas said that the Council may make that determination Monday, or within the next 30 days, or the next council which is Tuesday. On Monday evening’s agenda the Council will consider Information Item 32, Commissioner of Building Mike Gismondi’s letter declaring the Cappelli-requested City Center floor excision as a minor site plan amendent. Because the hotel plan, affects the residential portion of the project, not the retai, it would be presented separately by Cappelli to the Common Council, as an amended site plan.
Malmud: Sears possibility played into Cappelli request.
According to Councilperson Rita Malmud, speaking to WPCNR Friday afternoon, the circumstances around yesterday’s meeting arose Thursday evening when Cappelli Enterprises contacted city hall. Malmud said they asked if they could make the alteration in the LDA agreement preserving the ability to build five floors.
Malmud said the Cappelli organization indicated that Sears “has not signed on the dotted line” to bring their Great Indoor Store to City Center. She said that Cappelli Enterprises now reported Thursday and Friday that the new Sears Chief Executive Officer has expressed renewed interest in the project.
Previously, it had been rumored extensively in real estate circles, that the Sears organization had become cool to participation in the City Center and was withdrawing. Malmud also said that the previous Sears CEO, according to her information had set a moratorium on new commitments, now apparently being reconsidered by the new Sears CEO, Allan J. Lacy, who was promoted to CEO in December, 2000.
Friday, Ms. Malmud confirmed that Sears is now interested again, and Mr. Cappelli is still interested in Sears. However, to accommodate Sears, the hotel would have to go elsewhere, and Mr. Cappelli would need all five floors.
According to Malmud, Cappelli Enterprises sought a way to remain at five floors if Sears came through, preserving his 120,000 feet of retail. However, if he was locked into a four-floor building, he could not accommodate Sears. Consequently, Malmud says, Mr. Cappelli wanted to keep both options open.
Bank concern over scaling down the retail without a hotel committed.
Ms. Malmud added that it was her understanding Mr. Cappelli’s bank (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) was concerned that so much of the retail was being eliminated from the project. She said this concern was part of Cappelli’s request to not throw out the fifth floor option permanently. Mr. Cappelli latest date for closing on his financing is February 10.
Spokesman confirms Malmud analysis
Geoffrey Thompson, spokesman for Cappelli Enterprises said that the organization LDA request “preserves its flexibility,” and that was all that was sought. Thompson stated the Ritz Carlton project was still in play, that designs for the Ritz Carlton project were in progress. Asked if Mr. Cappelli was envisioning the Ritz-Carlton for another part of the complex or another parcel in the downtowm, Thompson said he had “no comment” on that.
The Cappelli request for a minor site plan amendment eliminating one floor from the project was first presented January 22, when he disclosed the Ritz-Carlton was interested in securing part of the City Center for one of their luxury hotels.
Things are looking up for Sears
The PR newswire reports that Sears is undertaking a national rebuilding program. Sears itself reports on its website that fourth quarter earnings per share were up 11%. CEO Lacy predicts earnings per share will be up 13% to 15% in 2002.
The company is remodeling 50 stores nationally by the end of the year, as part of an initiative to “revitalize its full-line stores, creating an improved, more convenient shopping experience for its customers while operating with greater efficiency.”
“We think customers will like the new look and feel of shopping at Sears,” said Sears Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alan J. Lacy. “Our stores will be easier to shop and the merchandise more appealing. We’ll emphasize better classic apparel while highlighting our strong appliance, electronics and home improvement merchandise,” Lacy concluded.
New looks planned. Part of 4-year plan.
Of the 15 new stores on target for 2002, seven are relocations at present locations. All will offer easy-to-shop layouts, with centralized checkouts and simplified signage and fixtures.
Throughout 2002 Sears plans facelifts of 50 stores. They are “the first wave” in a four-year remodeling program during which approximately 600 of Sears’ largest stores will be updated to incorporate many features of the new stores. The remodelings begin in April.
Information on Sears appears on the Sears website, www.sears.com.