Fairplain Plaza gets new owners

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — Lormax Stern Development announced Wednesday it completed its purchase of the Fairplain Plaza in Benton Township.

According to a news release sent from the Bloomfield Hills company, Lomax Stern bought the 450,000-square-foot shopping center due to it being “in the heart of Benton Harbor’s trade area.”

The sale was closed Nov. 30, Lomaz Stern officials confirmed in an email. The total cost of the acquisition was not made available.

Fairplain Plaza is at the corner of M-139 and Napier Avenue with businesses that include Dunham’s Sporting Goods, Party City, PetSmart, TJ Maxx, Ulta, Target and Kohl’s.

“Fairplain is perfectly located and really is the cornerstone for this market,” Andrew Luckoff, leasing specialist at Lormax Stern, said in a news release. “We are excited to begin improvements in the plaza. … We’ll introduce fresh, new retail concepts to the greater Benton Harbor community. We plan to build Fairplain up to its full potential.”

Lormax Stern specializes in the redevelopment of shopping centers like Fairplain Plaza, the company stated.

Working closely with the surrounding area residents as well as retailers, Luckoff said, Lormax Stern works to make “long-term success and added value” for the communities they serve.

Richard Kerwin, vice president of acquisition at Lormax Stern, said the property adds to the company’s western Michigan holdings, which also includes Knapp’s Crossings and North Kent Mall in Grand Rapids and Frandor Mall in Lansing.

The closest shopping mall development Lomax Stern has to Southwest Michigan is the Minges Brook Mall in Battle Creek.

“Western Michigan is a strong growth sector for us,” said Kerwin, who led the acquisition with Lormax Stern. “We see such potential here and we’re thrilled to be part of the retail community in this region. We have been eager to get involved in Benton Harbor, and Fairplain Plaza provided the perfect opportunity for us to do so. We have exciting plans for the plaza.”

Lormax Stern has been in the shopping center development business for more than 30 years, and has developed more than 30 million square feet of retail space to date.

The company owns and manages more than 30 retail centers in Michigan, Illinois, Florida, Kentucky and Mississippi.

A history of transactions

Coventry Real Estate Advisors previously owned the plaza.

The New York-based firm bought the 42-acre shopping complex in 2006 from JPA Development – a company run by local business owner Jim Paul.

Paul had bought the plaza in 1997 from the Angelo family, who had established the shopping center in the late 1950s at M-139 and Napier Avenue as the first retail center in what is now the Twin Cities retail hub.

Fairplain Plaza fell into hard times in the 1970s. By the mid-’90s, it was largely vacant with several crumbling buildings.

JPA Development bought the property and began tearing down old structures. Fairplain Drive was built between M-139 and Mall Drive to connect Fairplain Plaza to the Orchards Mall and Pipestone Road shopping district.

Target, which serves as the plaza’s anchor store, opened in 1998, and several chain retailers soon followed.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 8, 2016)

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