OHIO Large stores are leaving cities -- there's now three left
Entertainment and specialty retailers now are the draws for downtown.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- Next year's planned closing of the Lazarus store near the Statehouse will leave Ohio with just three downtown department stores in its largest cities.
The former regional destinations -- some of them the founding store in a chain -- have left as residents and shoppers migrated to suburban malls.
Now without destination stores, cities are trying to lure suburban residents downtown with entertainment areas and specialty and one-of-a-kind retailers.
Cincinnati-based Federated Department Stores Inc. said last week that its flagship store -- Lazarus was founded in Columbus in 1851 -- will close in August.
The Columbus City Center, built across the street from the anchor store and attached by a skywalk, will retain only a Kaufmann's store that opened this year in the former Marshall Field's location. The only other urban department stores in the state will be the Lazarus and Saks Fifth Avenue stores in Cincinnati.
Cleveland lost its last downtown department store when Dillard's closed on Public Square at the end of 2001. Elder-Beerman had a going-out-of-business sale in its corporate hometown of Dayton last year.
Workers in downtown Akron have been without a lunchtime shopping spot since O'Neil's closed in 1989. And in Toledo, Macy's moved on nearly 20 years ago.
Cincinnati saved its two stores at a cost of $30 million in tax breaks, grants and incentives. Critics of the tax breaks say keeping them wasn't worth that much.
Cities now are trying to redevelop the vacant stores and build downtown housing to create built-in customers.
The vacant stores in Cleveland and Dayton are being redeveloped with ground-floor shops and restaurants and office space on upper floors.
Loss has hurt
But specialty retailers say losing the draw from the bigger stores' sales hurts.
Joanne Clear, owner of a bookstore in downtown Dayton, said she has noticed a difference since Elder-Beerman closed in mid-2002.
"The person who maybe just wandered in because they were downtown already, we don't get that any longer," she said.
Like Toledo and Akron, Dayton has a new downtown stadium for its minor-league baseball team and hopes linking it with a new performing-arts center and entertainment district will attract visitors.
Norm Essman, Dayton's development director, says downtown can have vibrant attractions without retail.
Lee Hill, president of the Downtown Cleveland Partnership, said department stores are now firmly part of the suburban landscape, "so we want to bring in unique retailers and entertainment venues people cannot find anywhere else."