By Al Urbanski, Chain Store Age

At 1.3 million-sq.-ft., it was one of the largest mixed-use centers to come online in 2015. Developers Steiner + Associates and Bucksbaum Retail Properties envisioned Liberty Center as the first of a new generation of town center-style projects. Their plan was to merge breakthrough design and immersive engagement with captivating event programming to create a sense of place in the suburbs north of Cincinnati.

Liberty Center’s tenant roster includes a CinéBistro theater with six “dine-in” theaters, a 200,000-sq.-ft. Dillard’s department store, an 80,000-sq.-ft. Dick’s Sporting Goods, and a 150-key AC Liberty by Marriott. Specialty retailers include national and regional names like Victoria’s Secret, Gap, Hollister, Forever 21, Eddie Bauer, and Kendra Scott. Liberty’s long list of dining options features Northstar Café, Rodizio Grill, Cheesecake Factory, Pies and Pints, and a marketplace-first Kona Grill.

Steiner executives said the original vision for Liberty Center has played out in that, like any town, it has continued to evolve organically — and most important, locally. In the last 12 to 18 months, Liberty has added a lineup of prominent local women’s fashion retailers such as Rose & Remington, Burlap & Birch, and Serella. It has also stretched the boundaries of the average small town with the recent addition of iFly — an indoor skydiving experience.

Liberty Center has become a natural landing spot for community events, Steiner reports. Taste of Liberty, featuring restaurant tenants at the center, and StartupCincy Pop Up Market, highlighting local entrepreneurs, have taken hold at the town center as have farmer’s markets, free concerts, and movies in the park.

“As brick-and-mortar retailers struggle to adapt to digital competitors and fast-changing consumer preferences, innovative use of design and signage, artistry and activation, and continuing commitment to serving as a true community center, demonstrates that there is another way forward,” observed Anne Mastin, executive VP of leasing for Steiner + Associates.