Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bringing Out the Governor

In Nebraska there is one sure way to meet the governor. Attend a mall grand opening.

Retailing in my home state hasn’t quite caught up with the rest of the country, which isn’t so surprising considering that we number just 1 million residents statewide. So when RED Development—co-headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., and Scottsdale, Ariz.—joint-ventured an eye-popping open-air center in Papillion with The Lerner Co. out of Omaha, locals took notice. Including Governor Dave Heineman.

Nebraska’s newly installed chief showed up in the pouring rain last Saturday, May 25, to partake in the grand-opening ceremonies of Shadow Lake Towne Center, Sarpy County’s new shopping and dining destination. And, since I also braved the elements to attend as a RED invitee, I felt it my due to personally meet Gov. Heineman. (In truth, RED VP John Bacon gave me a firm shove in the back as motivation to make my move.)

The governor told me that he is excited about this new shopping center. And no wonder. When the rain slowed to a drizzle, my husband and I toured the grounds, marveling at the Main Street shopping district with its amphitheatre, outdoor fireplace, statuary, water features and extraordinary landscaping. We noted the repeated references to Nebraska history—always a winner with this salt-of-the-earth crowd. And we visited retailers Ann Taylor Loft, Coldwater Creek and Yankee Candle. (ULTA will open its first Nebraska location in this center, as will Sephora at J.C. Penney and Sweet & Sassy children’s salon and store.)

You don’t have to be a politician to understand what this kind of shopping center will mean to the state of Nebraska, and certainly to the residents of Sarpy County. Lucky for us that RED Development seems to have a penchant for all things Nebraskan, given their prior upscale lifestyle projects in both Lincoln and Omaha. Could it be because a number of the executives are graduates of the University of Nebraska? They say not, but I still wonder …

— Katherine Field

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