April 21, 1996 in City

New Mall Has Silver Lake Merchants Uneasy But Few Believe North Idaho Retailers Will Suffer Too Much From Valley Mall

By The Spokesman-Review

The Spokane Valley Mall puts developer JP Realty Inc. in direct competition with itself in Coeur d’Alene.

That little known fact adds an ironic twist to the question on the minds of many North Idaho retailers:

From whom will the new mall steal customers?

Since JP Realty owns 30 percent of Silver Lake Mall and also manages that property, the company would prefer that it’s not Silver Lake.

There is a “degree” of competition there, said JP Realty President G. Rex Frazier. Still, he said, both malls should do quite well.

Not everyone is in a position to be that optimistic.

“I think it definitely will affect us,” said Richard League, owner of Mother’s Cupboard Natural Foods, a chain with a store in Silver Lake Mall. “People between Spokane and Coeur d’Alene will go to the new mall instead of Silver Lake.”

League projected that his store at Silver Lake could take up to a 10 percent hit in sales when the Spokane Valley Mall opens in August 1997.

Few retailers or tourism officials believe that the North Idaho retail market will suffer greatly when the Spokane Valley Mall opens, but most believe sales will drop slightly.

At the least, the Valley mall will affect the way retailers look at the Kootenai County market in the future.

The announcement that the new mall was coming caused developer Jim Watson to drastically scale back his much-touted International Expo project in Post Falls.

At groundbreaking ceremonies for the 100-store Spokane Valley Mall Thursday, Ray Murphy, executive director of the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce, said he could already hear “Watson and the Post Falls chamber crying.”

The 640-acre Expo was intended as an international supermall, projected to employ 11,000 people and generate $34 million in annual sales taxes. Watson envisioned 3 million square feet of retail space in several power centers as well as a fully enclosed 10-acre regional mall three times the size of NorthTown.

But when Micron Technology Inc. opted not to locate a plant in Post Falls and JP Realty beat Watson in securing tenant commitments, Watson’s plans shrunk.

Retailers and tourism industry officials believe the impact will be greatest during the new mall’s honeymoon period. Curious consumers will leave habitual shopping areas and travel farther than is convenient to check out the new mall, they say.

Several retailers with locations in Coeur d’Alene already have approached JP Realty about putting an additional store in the new mall.

“My feeling has been, to protect myself, I’m thinking about putting a store in there,” said Gwen Kelley, owner of Gwen’s Gifts, a collectibles store in Silver Lake Mall. Kelley said that she’d keep her Silver Lake store, too.

However, some believe the new mall will draw more shoppers to the Spokane Valley, which possibly could benefit businesses in North Idaho.

“If it does anything, it’ll bring more people into this neighborhood,” said Ed Adamchak, property manager of the Factory Outlets at Post Falls. “If they start drawing people out into the Valley, we’re just another five minutes down the road.”

Adamchak added that the Factory Outlets own four acres west of their present location and “when the time is right,” that land will provide the opportunity to expand.

Stacy Becker, tourism director for Visitors Plus in Coeur d’Alene, agreed with Adamchak that the Factory Outlets would not be hurt by the new mall, but said Silver Lake probably would take a hit.

“It’ll create some impact, but I don’t think it’ll create a big drain,” Becker said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Valley mall another plum for JP Realty (ran in the Idaho edition only)

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