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Generation Gap

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I hadn’t thought much about all the ink given to American baby-boomer and millennial shoppers, until I heard stirrings about a Hispanic population so demographically diverse that it warranted its own share of press in this column.

I’m not talking about the total Hispanic demographic in the United States, which has generated as much attention as boomers, X-ers and millennials, but rather its subsets—first- to fifth-generation Mexican-Americans who each want something totally different from their shopping experiences.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times highlighted a controversy brewing among Latino politicians and constituents in the L.A. area. It described Hispanic dissension as residents of Baldwin Park charged City Council members with “being ashamed of their culture” because the leadership was bent on enforcing eminent domain to clear 125 largely Latino acres to build an Americano mixed-use urban village. The plans didn’t fly with Latino business owners and some residents, who accused the Council of trying to push them out of the community.

Here’s where I had to read between the lines. At first blush, the article appears to pit politician against populace. But, in reality, the war is being waged among different generations of Hispanics. Second-, third- and fourth-generation Latinos have little interest in ‘amigo’ stores such as pawnshops, check-cashing stores and discount gift shops. It’s the first-generation Hispanics who push the Latino agenda.

It occurred to me that developers need to understand the different Hispanic mind-sets in order to negotiate through Latino political land mines. For perspective, I talked with Arturo Sneider, partner in Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Primestor Development, one of the fastest-growing Hispanic companies in the country and an active retail real estate developer and manager. “We have found through the course of developing in these [Hispanic] neighborhoods that there has been some disconnect between what the elected officials believe to be best for the community and what the citizens believe would be ideal for the neighborhood,” explained Sneider. Developers need to recognize that disconnect, he added, as well as understand the generational spread of Hispanic citizens.

“When you say ‘Latino’ shopper, you are talking about a very broad group,” said Sneider, “from income levels, to first generation in the U.S., to fifth generation in the U.S., to Spanish-speaking, to English-speaking. You can’t generalize.”

Important to all generations, emphasized Sneider, is job creation. While other developments spark disputes over NIMBY-ism, Hispanic neighborhoods care more about jobs than what’s going up in their backyards. When Primestor developed La Alameda in L.A. County, which opens on July 12, it held job fairs to fill tenant and construction positions.

Generating employment, in addition to bringing a combination of desired chains such as Office Depot, Marshalls and Chuck E. Cheese, and local establishments surrounding a Mexican plaza, has ensured success for the center. “The opening is expected to draw 10,000 and 20,000 people,” said Sneider. “As with any project, it’s about doing your homework and talking with the community and elected officials about what they want, and then finding a middle ground.”

© 2014