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Summit Mall rendering 3
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Summit Mall rendering 1
The Summit at Fritz Farm, the sprawling new mixed-use shopping, dining, and living destination along Nicholasville Road, aims to reinvigorate and reimagine the large retail mall concept when it opens in late April.
The Birmingham, Alabama-based Bayer Properties will unveil its $156 million development during a weekend celebration April 27-29.
Festivities will include live music, fireworks, chef demonstrations and bourbon tastings. Lawn games, yoga and a cycle bar will be available for outdoorsy types, plus a children’s play area for kids. And although The Barn, an all-local food hall (the first of its kind in Kentucky), isn’t slated to open until summer, several local tenants such as Crank & Boom Ice Cream will have pop-ups in the commons area.
The retail and restaurant space alone covers approximately 300,000 square feet (including 22 dining options), with another 48,000 dedicated for office space. Already, The Summit opened its first restaurant, J. Alexander’s, and The Henry, a luxury apartment complex that markets its homes as “true urban living,” is currently leasing.
With this “first look,” several more tenants will officially open their doors to the public. Expect well-established national retailers including Pottery Barn and Vineyard Vines; fast-food trendsetter Shake Shack; apparel by Bonobos, Madewell, Marine Layer and the Midway-based Crittenden Clothes; eyewear by Warby Parker; boots by The Frye Co.; and celebrity concepts like Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James and Fabletics, Kate Hudson’s line of athletic-leisure wear. For many of these companies, the new Lexington locations are one of only a handful of brick-and-mortar establishments in the country.
Such a full range of offerings makes the The Summit “a city within a city,” says Stephanie Bork, marketing manager for The Summit.
Decades of work
Founded in 1983, Bayer Properties has had ties to Lexington since the mid-1990s, whenDavid Silverstein, a Vanderbilt grad who loved trips to Keeneland, became an executive partner with CEO Jeffrey Bayer. Attracted to the city’s rich heritage, size and urban-land area boundary, developers began scouting sites roughly 10 years ago for a project that would be both “cosmopolitan and Bluegrass,” according to officials. A converted tobacco farm was selected as the site, and in 2012, Bayer representatives toured the area and sat down with local entrepreneurs to find out what the community needed.
“The consistent feedback we’d been getting was, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of big-box’” stores, says creative director and brand strategist Lindsay Bayer.
Since those early talks, the types of tenants sought have evolved, especially with boutique fitness and socially conscious retail on the rise in recent years.
However, the criteria have remained the same. Bayer says The Summit’s tenants have to be best in class, high in demand, caring towards staff and dedicated to community. The result, Bayer believes, is a “healthy balance” of national, regional and local retailers.
“The dream list of tenants has come to life,” she says.
National scale, local buy-in
After years of negotiations and zoning, the project broke ground in July 2015. Construction was slower than developers anticipated due to inclement weather and union labor laws.
Despite delays, the massive construction undertaking has promise. Bayer says that roughly 1,200 new jobs were brought into the market for construction (though some regional contractors were used), and with retail, management, security and operations, they’re expecting the mall to generate another 1,500 to 2,000 permanent local jobs.
Overall, Bayer maintains the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Among the roster of local supporters is chef Ouita Michel, who will open a 180-seat high-end Kentucky tavern – her largest restaurant to date – called Honeywood later this year.
Though Michel expressed initial hesitation about getting involved, primarily due to the scale of the project, she ultimately signed on after more in-depth conversations with the developers and a Dallas-based food and beverage consultant they brought in to help potential tenants understand the vision of the development.
“I’ve had an extremely good experience with them – we ended up feeling pretty confident about it,” Michel said. “Now I’m just super excited to see it open.”
Among potential local tenants, Michel wasn’t alone in her initial hesitation. Bayer acknowledges that several local tenants who were approached have declined to sign leases but said she hopes they’ll change their minds after opening weekend.
Naturally, some will be skeptical about the logistics of visiting The Summit. Though parking will be scattered throughout the development, two parking decks are also being built to accommodate high volume. Another concern? Bayer calls traffic “a double-edged sword,” explaining that while the popularity of the corridor may benefit commerce, developers wish to avoid causing further congestion. To combat this, The Summit will be accessible through four main entrances, and an additional signal light has been added on Nicholasville Road to ease traffic flow. Even so, it may take some getting used to.
“For Lexington to have big city events and big city things like this, we need to put up with big city woes,” says Bork.
Furthermore, some will be wary of having another shopping center in one of Lexington’s most developed landscapes. The Summit’s impact on nearby retailers is still unclear, but Bayer insists there’s no tension.
“There’s been competition, but it’s been really healthy and more complementary in nature than negative,” she says.
She adds: “We specifically picked this corridor, and to be within close proximity of Fayette Mall and The Lexington Green … [because] we didn’t want to split the market. We expect someone to visit The Summit at Fritz Farm and Fayette Mall in the same day.”
Moving forward? “A big goal is continuing to be disciplined in the retailers that we do bring in,” says Bayer, plus, “continuing to bring best-in-class locals and creatives.”
By late summer/early fall, there will be at least 45 tenants. During the summer months, there are plans for a live music series, rotating art installations and an informal lecture series on everything Kentucky, from gardening to Maker’s Mark. Moreover, Bayer Properties is working to obtain an open container license for the entire project, which would allow customers to move throughout the grounds with alcoholic drinks instead of being confined to place of purchase.
And the already massive project may expand. Currently, 44 acres have been developed, but another 11 are still reserved, to be rolled out strategically as the market demands. Bayer Properties still is seeking a full-service hair salon, a papery concept and a children’s boutique, among other niche categories. Officials expect 5 million visits during the first year of operation.
Michel feels confident that Lexington will respond positively to what she describes as a “cutting-edge” and “absolutely stunning” development – much of which can be attributed to the Bayers’ creative vision, efficient use of space and dedication to creating a diverse and special environment for local and national retailers alike.
“The level of commitment that they have shown to local businesses and the Lexington area is pretty extraordinary for a company that big,” she said. “I think Lexington should draw some confidence from that type of investment.”