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Nov. 20--A $500 million expansion of Easton Town Center is underway, as the development approaches its 20th anniversary.

The addition, which will include offices, hotels, housing, entertainment and retail, represents the next step in Easton co-developer and L Brands founder Leslie H. Wexner's vision of Easton as not just a shopping center, but a "neighborhood."

"The idea that you could build an urban shopping area in a suburban location and have it become a neighborhood on its own is something I thought and thought about," Wexner told The Dispatch in a January 2017 interview. "It's not just a shopping center anymore."

The 16-acre expansion will bring to more than $2 billion the amount invested in Easton, which will still have several undeveloped parcels after this new phase.

The new district will be on the northeast side of Easton, near the Nordstrom's and Macy's stores. Workers have been moving dirt for several weeks in anticipation of the construction, requiring the closure of the Morse Road entrance near Nordstrom.

An Aloft boutique hotel and Pins Mechanical -- an entertainment center featuring mini-bowling, pinball and food and beverages -- are among the first tenants announced for the new district, which is expected to start opening late next year.

A centerpiece of the district will be RH Gallery, the high-end version of Restoration Hardware; it will properly be known as RH Columbus, The Gallery at Easton Town Center. The first RH Gallery in Ohio and 17th in the country will be a free-standing, 40,000-square-foot anchor store that will include a restaurant, a rooftop garden and "a complete immersion into the RH brand," according to a statement from Easton Town Center.

Yaromir Steiner, founder and CEO of Easton co-developer Steiner + Associates, said the new district is designed to have a Short North-like feel meant to appeal to young professionals in particular.

Adding to the feel will be Urban Hearth, an industrial-style building providing "a lively environment to gather, relax and spend time" around a large hearth and patio area that will be surrounded by yet-to-be-named "breweries, restaurants and entertainment spaces," according to a release from Easton. Also included will be a new outdoor event space called The Yard, which will serve as a "public green" for live entertainment and community events.

Complementing the urban entertainment mix will be the first phase of housing in the Easton Town Center footprint. Steiner said details on the residences, which probably will be apartments, are expected be released in early 2019.

"We wanted to create an area that was open to new thinking, millennial thinking," Steiner said. "We weren't going for national chains; we wanted to get unique tenants."

More parking will be added to serve the district. A new six-level garage and an expansion of the existing garage just north of Macy's will add 1,500 parking spaces to Easton.

Adam R. Flatto, president and CEO of Easton co-developer The Georgetown Company, said a new parking system including a smartphone app will be unveiled late next year, allowing greater ease of and information about parking.

Flatto said to expect an announcement soon about Easton welcoming a bike-sharing service that will serve the growing number of people living, working and shopping at Easton.

Easton is the dominant shopping center in Ohio based on sales and visitors. Steiner said Easton's Midwestern competitors would include major regional draws such as the Mall of America in Minnesota.

Restoration Hardware will move from its smaller, more conventional location on Townsfair Way at Easton (near Cheesecake Factory) to the new site. Steiner said potential tenants are keenly interested in the space that will be vacated; for every storefront that becomes available, he said, there is a waiting list of retailers waiting to get in.

mrose@dispatch.com

@MarlaMRose

tferan@dispatch.com

@TimFeran

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