When Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust bought Prince George's Plaza in Hyattsville six years ago, it was an under-performing shopping center with a pothole-marred parking lot, faded paint and a shuttered anchor store.
It was just what Joe Coradino, PREIT's president, was looking for. His company specializes in turning around under-performing retail centers.
"It was really performing at a relatively modest pace in terms of sales. Our sense was that our customers were leaving the area and going to Montgomery Mall and other competitors," Coradino said. "We started to reposition it, and all of a sudden the sales at the center really began to take off."
First, he wooed Old Navy, teeny-bopper retailer LVX, Harold Penner Man of Fashion, Motherhood Maternity, Electronics Boutique and Bath and Body Works to Hyattsville. By the end of last year, sales per square foot had increased from $250 to $400.
He used the improved sales figures to persuade Target Stores to open in the mall, filling the vacant anchor space. Target opened last month.
"We like to acquire malls that have upside where we see the potential for repositioning in terms of tenant mix and aesthetics," Coradino said. "This is what we do."
PREIT owns 35 retail centers across the country and has already renovated half a dozen. Because of its improved sales and new retailers, the Hyattsville mall was also selected to be renovated.
Coradino said his company is completing $6 million worth of improvements to the center, including a new marquee, a new parking lot and changing the exterior colors of the mall.
"We are always aware that the center's appearance was less than stellar," Coradino said. "When we saw the support we were getting from the community, we decided that the center was worthy of a significant investment. . . . The center is going to be a real gem -- all redone in the next four weeks."
On Nov. 16, the mall will have a grand reopening. Its name will be changed from Prince George's Plaza to the Mall at Prince George's. Mall manager Henry Watford said the word "plaza" no longer accurately applies to the center, which was originally an open-air plaza when it opened in 1959. In 1977, the plaza was enclosed and GC Murphy, Hecht's and Woodward and Lothrop opened as anchors. GC Murphy and Woodward and Lothrop have since closed.
In 1990, a food court was added, but the mall had not undergone another renovation until now.
For a time, the worn retail center lost shoppers who were searching for a more modern mall, said Watford, who has managed the Hyattsville center for 14 years.
"PREIT has taken an aggressive attitude and approach to bringing quality shopping to the market area," Watford said. "They reinvested into the property, bringing quality retailers to the center, and now the Target deal is a major coup in terms of bringing a hot retailer. We are seeing new shoppers, shoppers who have previously not shopped at [the center]. We're going to increase our market share."
Coradino said that is his goal. The median household income in Hyattsville is $45,355, according to 2000 Census figures.
"We want to do a better job of serving the customers in the immediate area," he said. "It is a very strong income demographic."