The 46-acre complex had the bad luck to open just before the recession. Retailers were reluctant to expand. But the mood may be changing because The Landing just signed a string of new tenants.

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The Landing in Renton debuted with a Target store shortly before the U.S. economy fell into recession three years ago, and although it soon added a 14-screen movie theater and such big-box chains as PetSmart and Staples, many shops remain empty.

Now, things may be looking up for the 46-acre mixed-use development near Boeing’s 737 plant.

The Landing this week announced six additions to its retail-tenant roster, including Dick’s Sporting Goods and discount clothing chain Marshalls. Both plan to open in the spring.

Other additions include locally owned eyewear shop Eyes on The Landing and Creative Mom Toys, currently an Internet-only business.

The Landing also will get two new restaurants — locally owned Fresh Way Pizza and Canadian chain Mucho Burrito — giving it a dozen eateries.

The six bring the portion of retail space that’s leased at The Landing to 80 percent, said Michelle Davis, marketing director at Dallas-based Harvest Partners, which developed the project with Transwestern Investment of Chicago.

“It seems like the tide is starting to turn a little bit,” Davis said. Stores “are starting to look at expanding, whereas for the past two years they’ve not been expanding at all.”

She noted The Landing is in lease negotiations with several additional tenants, so up to 88 percent of its retail space could be spoken for by year-end.

Off Interstate 405 on former Boeing property, The Landing has about 600,000 square feet of shopping, dining and entertainment space, plus 900 apartments.

Dick’s Sporting Goods, a Pittsburgh-based chain that recently expanded to Washington state with a store at South Hill Mall in Puyallup, will take 52,400 square feet of space that Joe’s Sports vacated when it went out of business in 2009.

Dick’s also owns a Golf Galaxy store at The Landing, but that store will soon close.

At 26,500 square feet, the new Marshalls store will take a big chunk of space near L.A. Fitness and Ross Dress For Less, another discount clothing chain.

Still, a dozen or so smaller stores near Regal Cinemas sit empty. A sign on the door at Daphne’s Greek Café says it’s now closed.

Alex Pietsch, Renton’s economic-development administrator, said The Landing has been hurt by store bankruptcies and other forces beyond its control.

“Joe’s, from what we heard, had one of the strongest openings in its history,” Pietsch said. “Same thing with Daphne’s. Its local store was doing great, but it got taken down by corporate bankruptcy.”

Davis mentioned that of six restaurants open at The Landing for both 2009 and 2010, sales so far are up 31 percent on a year-over-year basis. Stores also have been posting robust sales growth, she said.

“The center is proving itself as a viable market,” added Pietsch.

“Just getting people to take the plunge and open there has been a challenge, which is understandable given the lack of confidence in the economy.”

Local residents Ron and Kelly Stilwell, who used to work in mortgage lending, opened Caffe Felice at The Landing last spring after taking in a movie and noticing there was no coffee shop. Starbucks was to open in the space where Caffe Felice is, but the Seattle coffee giant pulled out as part of a broader effort to cut costs.

Kelly Stilwell said they were able to take advantage of the interior prep work Starbucks had done on the 2,500-square-foot store. “The build-out for this was not in our budget,” she said.

The prospect of more shops and restaurants at The Landing pleases Mary Kosty, who lives in Kent and stopped by Caffe Felice with a friend Tuesday. They were on their way to meet up with another friend nearby.

“It’s been very slow progress — just the wrong time to start this, I guess, though it does seem like every time I come out here, there’s always something new,” said Kosty, standing amid several empty stores.

“More shops, please,” she said.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com