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Pinecrest retail, food, living district changes ownership, creating more flexibility to navigate pandemic

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Posted at 7:43 AM, Nov 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-23 19:04:08-05

ORANGE VILLAGE, Ohio — The 2020 holiday shopping season is picking up as Americans learn more about a potential vaccine that could allow more social interaction in the coming months.

On a brisk but sunny afternoon, Jodi Keiper and her mother Sandie Besett sit outside at Pinecrest in Orange Village not only beating the COVID spread, but also ready to do in-person shopping, bucking the growing online retail trend.

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Sandie and Jodi sit outside at Pinecrest.

“I mean, this is my preference,” said Keiper. “I like to see things in person, my clothes, instead of just taking a chance on sizes and things.”

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that “the third quarter 2020 e-commerce estimate increased 36.7% (±2.1%) from the third quarter of 2019 while total retail sales increased 7.0% (±0.4%) in the same period.”

Americans are shopping about 7% more than a year ago, but doing it online much more often every year.

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Shoppers walk through the streets in the middle of Pinecrest. Developments like this one have replaced the old, massive, indoor malls of the past.

“It takes courage to do this,” said Besett. “It takes courage to keep on going and it’s so much more fun than just sitting down at a computer and just piddling around.”

The looming threat of COVID restrictions constantly means that the experience is in limbo, especially as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine urges residents to stay home for the next 21 days to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

It’s an experience the Orange Village retail, office, and living district Pinecrest would rather not see again.

“When everything was closed, we only had a few restaurants open,” said Fairmount Properties Director of Marketing Jessi Fausett.

Fairmount Properties manages Pinecrest and is counting on more people like Besett and Keiper showing up.

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Diners and shoppers pass through Pinecrest on a fall afternoon.

“Some traffic numbers are down,” said Fausett. “A lot of the store numbers remain flat to increasing because people are shopping with purpose.”

Fausett says shoppers are doing their window shopping online and showing up in person to try on and purchase products.

“You always have those opportunities when you need that little black dress and you need it for Friday night and you need it to fit,” said Fausett.

Still, businesses across the United States are struggling to survive various levels of shutdowns as coronavirus infections increase in communities across the U.S.

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While COVID numbers rise, large outdoor spaces like Central Park at Pinecrest are prime for people to spend time in, provided that the weather is warm enough.

Pinecrest, though, has some new flexibility because its ownership just changed.

Fairmount Properties and DiGeronimo Companies built the development and took out a loan from Square Mile Capital to help pay for it.

With business struggling, Square Mile Capital became the owners in a move that real estate experts call “leaving the keys on the porch.”

“Pinecrest, I think, they made the right decision,” said Dottore Companies’ Mark Dottore. “They saw that there’s not going to be an upswing in retail.”

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Restaurants in Pinecrest are still open with outdoor seating and takeout options.

Part of Dottore’s business is as a court-appointed receiver, stepping in to take over real estate that can’t meet its debt obligations and helping to make it profitable again.

He says “leaving the keys on the porch” is one of the lessons learned during the economic downturn in 2008, when long court battles often followed the realization that a property wouldn’t be able to pay what it owed lenders.

“In 2008, everybody fought,” said Dottore. “Now, people are looking at this and going, ‘It’s just not worth it.”

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At the start of Ohio's Stay at Home Order, Fausett says Pinecrest only had its restaurants open.

With coronavirus cases still spiking across the nation, Dottore predicts that Pinecrest isn’t the only property that will face these issues.

“When you start seeing signs of trouble, start trying to renegotiate with your lenders, start trying to renegotiate with your tenants,” said Dottore. “I think we learned that everybody has to work together to get to a somewhat palatable solution.”

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Signs in Pinecrest encourage people to wear masks during the coronavirus.

“This was definitely a pivotal moment for Pinecrest,” said Fausett.

Without a drawn-out legal fight between developers and lenders, Fausett says there’s a more direct line of communication between tenants and owners while the doors stay open for the holiday season, with a full calendar of events to bring traffic to the district.

Square Mile Capital declined to comment on this story.

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