2023’s Top 10 Retail Center Experiences: No. 3 Fenton

Chain Store Age picks physical retail’s most engaging centers
Al Urbanski
fenton-hines- NC
Fenton delivered 345,000-sq.-ft. of retail to the Research Triangle, including Arhaus, PBR Cowboy Bar, and Lululemon.

When Fenton was about to open a year ago, its then leasing director Dotan Zuckerman told Chain Store Age that locals in Cary would be glad that North Carolina nixed its original plan to turn the empty, 92-acre site between Raleigh and Durham into a storage location for state vehicles.

“Everyone around there compared it to other modern open-air developments,” Zuckerman said then, “but they didn’t know what they didn’t know, and they soon will.”

Now they do.

Today, thousands of residents in this well-to-do suburban enclave in the Research Triangle escape to Fenton to dine at chef-driven restaurants such as M Sushi and Colletta, from which they can exit with their cocktails and stroll through art-lined paseos.

They can pause at two green spaces set with hammocks, fireplaces, cornhole sets, and chess tables. And they and their families can take advantage of the center’s 200-plus annual activations such as Raleigh Fashion Fest, Little Fentonians, and Light the Square—Fenton’s Christmas tree lighting event which drew more than 17,000 visitors in its first year.

“It’s a vibe. It’s an environment,” said Kurt Hartman, a senior managing director at the global real estate power Hines, which developed Fenton in partnership with Columbia Development.

“Most of the other retail centers in the area have been around a long, long time. There is an old mall that has been morphing into an outdoor center. This is the only one created from the ground up.”

Wegmans was the very first tenant to show an interest in the location, and their lease signing shone as a beacon to other top national and local brands.

Fenton’s 345,000-sq.-ft. of retail GLA houses Arhaus, Lululemon, Paragon Theaters, PBR Cowboy Bar, Williams Sonoma, CRU Food & Wine Bar, Club Pilates, and Sephora. Office space and multitenant residential is elevated above the street-level retail deck.

Phase Two of the project is now underway and Phase One’s exceptional debut has caught the eye of many more valuable tenants, according to Hartman.

“Leasing is up like crazy,” he said.

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