Kraft’s retail plaza would reap benefit
If you want to know why Robert Kraft would welcome a casino complex in Foxborough, take a look at his shopping plaza, Patriot Place. The much-hyped retail and restaurant space adjacent to Gillette Stadium has not lived up to expectations.
A casino across the street on Route 1 would guarantee a flood of new visitors and help kick-start Kraft’s vision to make the property an entertainment destination, according to retail analysts.
Casinos and stores make a powerful combination - most evident, of course, in Las Vegas. And that’s where Kraft is seeking a potential partner, Steve Wynn, to build a $1 billion casino on 200 acres across from Patriot Place.
“It would be a boon to that shopping center and bring a constant flow of traffic, rather than just predominately weekend traffic,’’ said Robert F. Sheehan, a vice president at Key Point Partners, a Burlington commercial real estate services firm. “You see retail space up and down the Strip in Vegas and inside the casinos on different levels because they’ve found viable shoppers with cash to spend.’’
A Patriot Place spokesman did not return messages seeking comment.
One merchant, Michael Oh, president and founder of Tech Superpowers, which expanded its store this summer at Patriot Place, said a casino would raise the profile of the outdoor mall. Business, he said, is slow in the morning through lunch time, compared to weeknights and weekends.
“The main thing a casino would do is get more people to be exposed to Patriot Place. They’ll walk in and experience it and see the quality of the property and stores are just as good as Derby Street Shoppes in Hingham or Legacy Place’’ in Dedham, Oh said. “The more people that walk through here, the better.’’
The move to open a casino in Foxborough comes about four years after the Kraft family first opened its $350 million retail and entertainment complex that is now home to a Patriots museum and several dozen merchants including Bass Pro Shops, Victoria’s Secret, and a Davio’s restaurant.
But the mall has struggled to find its identity with specialty merchants as competition increased from new centers like Legacy Place. Bass Pro Shops, the outdoor retailer, is the biggest shopping attraction, but its isolated location with a separate parking lot means visitors often leave without checking out the rest of the center.
The recession only made matters worse: A number of Patriot Place tenants closed, and industry analysts estimated the vacancy rate pushed close to 20 percent at one point. It’s now at roughly 11 to 12 percent, still significantly higher than the 8.8 percent average at shopping centers in eastern Massachusetts, according to Key Point Partners.
The Krafts have tried to fill some of the retail holes with entertainment offerings, such 5Wit’s “Espionage,’’ an interactive spy adventure that makes visitors move room to room solving different puzzles and cracking codes to complete their mission.
Building a casino across the street - and the potential for a pedestrian bridge that would directly connect the two properties divided by Route 1 - would bring more shoppers to existing stores and entice new retailers to move into the property. And revenues from leasing the property to Wynn would allow the Krafts to invest in more attractions for the complex.
“Patriot Place can’t compete with Legacy Place, Emerald Square, or Wrentham outlets. And they’re finding that out,’’ said Mike Tesler, president of Retail Concepts, a consultancy in Norwell. “Putting a casino here would create 24-7 traffic which the restaurants and retail would thrive on. And it would kick-start Patriot Place in the direction of becoming a suburban entertainment hub, as opposed to just another suburban outdoor shopping center.’’