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061315-blm-loc-3shoppes

The Shoppes at College Hills is anchored by destinations such as Destihl Restaurant & Brew Works and the Hampton Inn and Suites.

NORMAL — There should be no noticeable changes for shoppers at The Shoppes and The Plaza at College Hills in Normal, following the sale of the property announced Tuesday.

“Most shoppers won’t notice any difference at all,” said Greg Slowiak, general manager at The Shoppes. “It’s going to be business as usual.”

Alto Real Estate Funds, a New York-based real estate investment firm, and M & J Wilkow, a Chicago-based real estate firm, have teamed up to acquire the 246,245-square-foot shopping center.

“They have been working on this for a couple of months and of course, with any property sale, it takes a little while to get everything in order,” Slowiak said.

The Shoppes and the Plaza, which had been owned by Miller Capital of Skokie, include approximately 30 stores and restaurants, Slowiak said, and is 97 percent leased. Also included are anchors Hobby Lobby, Target and Von Maur.

The name will remain the same, Slowiak said.

Details of the sale were not released, but it marks the second joint venture between M & J Wilkow and Alto in recent months. In November, the two firms acquired Plaza at the Pointe, a shopping center near Pittsburgh.

“We are very excited to work with Alto once again to acquire The Shoppes and The Plaza at College Hills,” said John Wiechart, senior vice president of acquisitions for M & J Wilkow, in a statement released Tuesday. “The addition of this center to our portfolio is well aligned with our focus on acquiring and creating value at lifestyle retail properties in growth markets.”

“The College Hills investment is consistent with Alto's philosophy of acquiring well-positioned assets that will generate consistent cash flow with the benefit of opportunities to add value through active management,” said Scott Onufrey, Alto’s managing partner, said. “M & J Wilkow is a proven, first-class operator and we look forward to growing our partnership with them.”

College Hills Mall opened in 1980 as a small, enclosed shopping center, and was demolished and rebuilt in 2005 as an outdoor center while retaining its anchor stores as standalone buildings. It was purchased by Cullinan Properties of Peoria, who designed it similar to another Cullinan project, Peoria’s Shoppes at Grand Prairie.

Jeff Giebelhausen, then president of Cullinan’s development division, described it at the time as being designed to feel more like a neighborhood with outdoor access, easy parking and lots of greenery.

At the time, officials with the town of Normal anticipated an additional $30 million in new sales, food and beverage, and property taxes from the development during the first 20 years of operation.

M & J Wilkow will manage the shopping center, and The Pollard Group will serve as leasing agent.

Eastland Mall in Bloomington, which opened in February 1967, at the southwestern corner of East Empire Street and Veterans Parkway remains the only other shopping mall in the Twin Cities.

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