Garden City sold to Mass. developer

Iconic shopping center joins company’s multistate real estate portfolio

The Cranston Herald ·

Garden City Center, a decades-old fixture of the Ocean State’s retail shopping scene, has been sold to a Massachusetts-based company.

The transaction was announced this week in separate press releases from the purchaser, WS Development, and the real estate firm that oversaw the transaction, Newmark Knight Frank. The Boston Globe first reported the deal, while Providence Business News first reported the sale price of $181 million.

“Garden City Center is a beloved and powerful hub with a long history of success,” Jeremy Sclar, president of WS Development,” said in the release. “We believe that our experience creating retail gravity in similar markets will allow us to take something great and make it even better. We are looking forward to working with the existing tenants and community toward this goal.”

“This site meets more than simple market demand for branded retail, it fulfills the community’s need for entertainment and social interaction with an unmatched programming opportunity,” Justin Smith, senior managing director of Newmark Knight Frank, said in his company’s statement. “The asset’s exceptional traffic produces extraordinary sales for many of the retailers who identify Garden City Center as their sole location serving the state of Rhode Island.”

In an email Monday, Mayor Allan Fung praised WS Development.

“Garden City is the premier outdoor shopping destination in Rhode Island and a beloved jewel of Cranston,” he wrote. “We are excited that WS Development, who has a history of creating phenomenal mixed use developments in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and around the country, has purchased Garden City. We look forward to working with the new owners and their team to make this central hub even better in the years to come.”

Garden City Center, a 530,000-square-foot shopping center that houses Whole Foods, Lululemon and L.L. Bean and a host of other businesses, first opened in 1948.

In 1998, it was acquired by California-based Gateway Woodside Inc. for $73 million. It remains under the management of The Wilder Companies.

The shopping center has experienced a marked turnaround in recent years. The renaissance has coincided with the development at the adjacent Chapel View site, which is owned by Carpionato Group, and made Garden City a competitor of the Providence Place Mall.

Following the closure of stores such as Circuit City and Linens ‘n Things, the center embarked nearly a decade ago upon a multi-million dollar expansion and redevelopment project, connecting the portions of the facility known as “The Village” and “The Commons” to enhance pedestrian access and dividing a number of the larger spaces in the latter portion of the site into smaller retail footprints.

In 2016, a 9,000-square-foot building to the south of Newport Creamery was demolished to make way for 30,000 square feet of new restaurant and retail space. In 2017, the Cranston City Council approved a new zoning district for the shopping center that provides for taller buildings and additional uses at the site.

According to its website, WS Development’s properties include a mixed-use development in Boston’s Seaport District and roughly three-dozen other Massachusetts locations, including the Derby Street Shops in Higham, Legacy Place in Dedham, The Street in Chestnut Hill and Marketstreet in Lynnfield. The company also owns properties in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Florida, Mississippi, Kansas and Wisconsin.

“WS has demonstrated its commitment to owning the best asset in strong and emerging markets, with a keen focus on community activation, retail mix, design, landscaping and public art,” the company’s press release reads. “Garden City falls squarely into this category as the best of the best in a robust market.”