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Merchandise Mart Strengthens Casual Commitment

CHICAGO - The Merchandise Mart, the world's largest commercial building and an epicenter of fine design, has strengthened its commitment to the casual industry and announced record leasing as 20-plus casual showrooms re-sign to floors 15 and 16, the newly dedicated casual industry within the Design Center. This relocation will create an easier shopping experience for buyers at the annual International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market and the designers that shop the Merchandise Mart Design Center on a daily basis. In addition to the showroom relocations, seven tenants extended their current lease agreements beyond 2017, and the move will allow an additional 10% growth of the industry in 2013.
     In total, the Merchandise Mart completed negotiations and signed contracts for more than 60 residential home furnishings and casual furnishings tenants that will be relocating from floors 15, 16, 17 and 18 into new spaces. Many will be relocated to a newly renovated 14th floor, which will exclusively house Design Center tenants, previously occupied by gift industry leaseholders, and the 15th floor will be dedicated to casual/outdoor tenants.
     "MMPI's parent company, Vornado, has invested significant funding and resources to move and build out completely new spaces for the relocated casual tenants," said John H. Brennen III, executive vice president, MMPI. "These record-breaking leasing efforts and lease extensions past 2017 represent an industry-wide commitment to the Merchandise Mart and reaffirmation that the Mart is the business hub of the casual furnishings industry."
     The relocation of the casual industry is part of the larger reconfiguration of the Design Center at The Merchandise Mart into four floors - floors 6, 14, 15 and 16. More than 115 showrooms, representing 2,500 of the finest product lines, will span these floors, featuring the best in luxury home furnishings, outdoor furnishings, rugs, lighting, fabric, accessories, art and more.
     "The Design Center moves from floors 16, 17 and 18 to new spaces on 6, 14, 15 and 16 required a tremendous leasing effort from the Mart's residential and casual leasing teams," said Brennen. "It is unprecedented to negotiate and sign over 60 leases in a three-month time frame. This is a great example of the commitment and dedication our residential and casual resources have to The Merchandise Mart and maintaining their permanent showroom, in Chicago, a major market in the USA."
     Casual showrooms currently reside on floors 15, 16 and 17. The casual showrooms will remain a part of the Design Center and the reconfiguration will provide a more concentrated, easily navigable showcase of the top brands in casual design by dedicating two floors to its premium outdoor furnishings tenants.
     MMPI has secured design visionary Gary Lee, Gary Lee Partners, to redesign the corridors of the 15th floor. Visitors to the floor can expect to see a contemporary design with an open feel that highlights the casual showroom offerings. The relocated tenants will also be featuring new showroom and product presentations, making this an exciting time for the industry.
     Whitney Gillespie, vice president of sales and leasing for MMPI's casual industry, successfully re-signed 20-plus showrooms to occupy the 15th and 16th floors. Twelve tenants expanded and seven tenants, including Pride Family Brands, extended their current lease beyond 2017. In addition, the casual industry will increase its footprint in the Mart by an additional 10%, providing opportunities for new showrooms to enter the building in 2013 and offer even more outdoor resources to buyers and designers shopping the Merchandise Mart.
     The relocation will begin following the 2012 International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market, Sept. 20-23. The moves and renovation are expected to be completed before the end of the year.

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