Shopping Center Business

MAY 2016

Shopping Center Business is the leading monthly business magazine for the retail real estate industry.

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Page 124 of 358

COVER STORY 120 • SHOPPING CENTER BUSINESS • May 2016 BACKGROUND IN RETAILING Steven Levin grew up in the retail busi- ness. For many years, his family operated Margie's, a regional women's off-price clothing retailer that grew along with the regional mall business in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. He learned the business from the ground up, starting out working in the stores. "My father was a great merchant," he says. "I was around the business from a young age and worked in the business constantly." After college, Levin went to work for the family business full-time. At that time — in the late 1970s — the company had 30 stores in the Southwest. Following the growth of the regional mall business by pi- oneers like The Hahn Company, Simon, DeBartolo and others, the company grew its locations and presence in the region. By the early 1980s, it had 60 stores. Levin spent most of his time focused on mer- chandising, later becoming the compa- ny's president. In 1982, the company was sold. Levin, then in his late 20s, entered commercial real estate. "My vision at the time was to build a great shopping center company," he says. "I wanted to own and rent shopping cen- ters, and successfully operate them while creating value. I had a mindset to create an excellent real estate experience for shop- pers, since I had insights from my days as a retailer. It has taken me 30 years to get down my path, but slowly but surely here I am." In the late 1980s, the Texas real estate market hit a recession, in part due to the savings and loan crisis, but Levin stayed in the business, building and selling a real estate investment company in the early 1990s. When the constraints of a tighter market finally eased, Levin launched Cen- tennial Real Estate Company. "I launched Centennial in 1997 and set out to build the shopping center compa- ny I had wanted to launch 15 years earlier when I left the retail business," says Levin. Centennial began deliberately slow, buying neighborhood and community centers to enter the business. In 2002, the company acquired its first mall, Lufkin Mall in Lufkin, Texas, with Chicago-based GEM Realty Capital. Levin knew the cen- ter well because he had been a tenant at Lufkin Mall. The companies sold the center in 2006. In 2004, the company ac- quired Pueblo Mall in Pueblo, Colorado, which it still owns today. "At the time, we couldn't buy malls in primary markets," says Levin. "But the malls in secondary markets were hidden gems. They typically own the retail in their market because they are the only game in town." Levin kept pace during the Great The 1.3 million-square-foot Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills, Illinois, was one of five centers that Centennial acquired from Westfield for $1.1 billion earlier this year. Steven Levin and his family ran the mall retail chain Margie's in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. The company had 60 stores, most of which were located in the Southwest.

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