Developers expect to break ground in mid-2020 on a $100 million project to completely transform a 50-year-old suburban shopping center into an open-air retail concept that will blend shopping and dining with upscale apartments and office space. The redevelopment of the 35-acre site will be one of the largest retail projects in the New Orleans metro area.

Plans are to redevelop the existing Clearview Mall into the rebranded Clearview City Center with the addition of a hotel, a 14,000-sq-ft green space for outdoor events and concerts, more than 260 high-end apartments, restaurants with rooftop access, and about 100,000 sq ft of leasable commercial office space.

The new attractions will complement the mall’s existing tenants, which include Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, AMC Theaters, Zea Rotisserie & Bar, and Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux.

“We are confident that due to its size and scale, the project will become one of the largest hubs of activity and development in the region once we break ground,” Thomas Richards, managing partner of Richards Clearview LLC, told ENR. The Richards family has owned Clearview Mall since 1968.

Construction activity on the project is expected to generate 1,608 jobs and a $123 million economic impact, according to an analysis conducted by Greater New Orleans Inc. Once all phases of construction are complete and Clearview City Center opens, the development will support 420 jobs and deliver $26 million in annual economic impact.

Construction of the first phase of the development is expected to begin by the middle of the new year. The project will take place in multiple phases of construction to help minimize delays and inconveniences to existing retailers, as the center will maintain normal operations for its tenants throughout the building process.

The entire redevelopment will likely be a two- to three-year process, although a more exact timeframe will be contingent on the construction bids that come in, Richards says.

“We expect it will take a few years to complete all phases of construction, although much of this work will take place during the first phase of construction that begins in 2020, and as tenants for the redevelopment are finalized,” Richards says.

Metairie brokerage firm SRSA Commercial Real Estate is securing new tenants for this and future phases of construction, which includes build-to-suit office space and other retail opportunities.

One key consideration during construction will be the shopping center’s location at the busy intersection of Veterans Memorial Blvd. and Clearview Blvd., and next to a major Interstate 10 exit. The location is one of the state’s most highly traveled areas, with more than 50,000 vehicles using Veterans Boulevard each day, and 180,000 vehicles daily on Interstate 10.

The site is already zoned for its intended purpose, and the developer has been working closely with Jefferson Parish about the site plans.

“We don’t expect any significant construction challenges, other than ensuring all activity is done in a way that minimizes disruption to existing businesses,” Richards says.

Duplantis Design Group of Thibodaux is handling all of the design and architectural services on the project and has been involved from the outset of the project to help streamline the construction process.


Repurposing retail

When Clearview Mall opened in the suburb of Metairie in the late 1960s, it helped usher in the era of the shopping mall. Developers envisioned the mall as an all-in-one, indoor alternative to the standalone department stores in downtown New Orleans, lining block after block of busy Canal Street.

Clearview Mall was built just down the street from another major suburban retail hub, Lakeside Shopping Center, which opened in 1960.

With Clearview marking its 50th anniversary in 2019 — and at a time when brick-and-mortar retailers are giving way to online competitors — developers are once again eyeing the future with their plans for a reimagined retail and residential complex.

“This project will take one of the most visible pieces of real estate in Jefferson Parish and re-envision it as a commercial and residential destination,” says Jerry Bologna, president and CEO of the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission. “We believe this redevelopment will result in both construction jobs and permanent jobs. We look forward to the completion of this aspirational project, which will result in significant capital investment and job creation in our community.”

Helping to set the stage for plans to move forward was the developer’s 2018 acquisition of the 13.9-acre Sears Roebuck property, contiguous to Clearview Mall. With the acquisition, the shopping center increased its total size to 750,000 sq ft. The Sears department store and adjacent Sears Auto Center closed in March 2019, leaving the property vacant and available for redevelopment.

The new mixed-use Clearview complex marks a significant departure from the region’s existing retail developments, which consist primarily of malls and big-box stores. The developer believes the project will serve as a model for how to repurpose shopping centers to meet the changing needs of modern retail customers.

“This is a project unlike any other Jefferson Parish and this region have seen before – both in terms of the actual project and the impact this type of concept will hold for the area,” Richards says. “While malls and shopping centers across the U.S. have declined or been acquired by out-of-town ownership groups, Clearview is clearly an exception to that rule.”