The Osage Beach Outlet Mall is under contract and the new owners have some big changes planned.
Chris Foster, the son of well-known local developer Dan Foster and a partner in the new venture, said although a non-disclosure with current owner Simon Property Group prevents him from releasing a lot of the details – he said those who live at the Lake of the Ozarks and those who just vacation or visit here will be pleased.
“We originally planned to hold off making any announcements until we could present the overall project plan but once the rumor mill started churning – especially on Facebook – we felt it was important to counter some of the wrong information. Sometimes people assume no answer is a confirmation of what, in this case, was misinformation and we wanted to make sure people know that our focus is to keep the mall operating. We just plan to build on the blocks that are already there to create a dynamic new project that will benefit the Lake area well into the future,” Foster said.
To carry out their plans, the Foster family contracted with Kansas City-based Legacy Development, which has had a hand in creating more than 50 projects with over 31 million square feet of retail space across 14 states. One of their projects is the Legends Outlets in Kansas City, Kansas, which is 90 percent occupied, according to Foster.
At one time the Osage Beach Outlet Mall was home to more than 100 stores. Foster said while they don’t see the mall returning to that size in the future, they are looking at creating more commercial opportunities for the people that are coming down here. He also said to create the best shopping experience, it makes sense to consolidate the existing stores in one area.
“And when we talk about repositioning, we’re also talking about adding more restaurants and a lot of different entertainment components. At this point, nothing is off the table,” he said.
Some of those entertainment components will include family activities similar to what can be found in tourist destinations like Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Myrtle Beach and, closer to home, Branson.
“I have a 6-year-old and I know that in the wintertime, there’s not much to do with children. We had so many family destinations years ago – the Fort Funtier Land – an amusement park with rides and games for kids, the old Hillbilly Town and pretty much the entire Bagnell Dam Strip was family friendly. We believe that to be successful as a community, we need to have these types of things,” Foster said, adding that while his family has a lot of development experience, they don’t have experience developing retail. “So the takeaway is we’ll combine the knowledge of the Foster family, which has been in the area a long time, with the horsepower of a large, nationwide development team - a team of experts in retail – to come up with a great plan.”
With more than 3,000 students enrolled in grades k thru 6 in the Osage and Camdenton school districts, they’ll have a built-in customer base for any business that caters to children.
Foster said their plan may also include a housing component.
Foster said when looking at the total amount of acreage, it makes sense, especially when considering that an apartment component on the property would not only provide more customers for the retailers, it would also provide potential employees. However, like the rest of the possibilities, that piece of the development puzzle is just under consideration at this point.
“We are pretty far along in the process on a lot of different items, and we’d like to get started early next year but we haven’t closed on the property yet. We’re in our due diligence period. We won’t be moving forward with the project until and unless we can see it to a successful completion,” he said.
This wouldn’t be the first transformation project for Chris Foster. As chairman of the Santa Monica (California) Pier Corporation Board, he has headed up projects that revamped what was known as a “tourist trap” into a famous destination for tourists and locals alike, earning the Tourism Champion of the Year award.
In 2019, the first year of Foster’s leadership, to celebrate the premiere of the Netflix series “Stranger Things 3” the show brought in an amusement park that recreated circa 1985 carnivals. The Pier also hosted concerts that drew record crowds, an 18-week Run and Yoga series that drew an estimated 3,500 participants, and a festival that brought 30,000 people, which was 20,000 more than the previous year’s event. A snow machine on Christmas was also a huge hit.
Osage Beach Mayor John Olivarri said he’s anxious to meet with the developers to discuss the project.
“I am talking with Legacy Development Friday and I’m really looking forward to our conversation. Legacy is a well-known company with multiple developments across the county. We feel they are a very credible developer and we’re looking forward to working with them and the Fosters on reinvigorating the Outlet Mall. It’s a prime piece of property right in the middle of our retail hub so we’re anxious to see it be redeveloped and flourish,” Olivarri said.