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How Better Together made Avalon better than before

4/13/2021
North American Properties' "Better Together" pandemic program kept properties like Avalon thriving.

One year ago, the news of the pandemic swept our country, closed nonessential businesses, and changed life as we knew it. We at North American Properties realized that in order to successfully emerge from the crisis, we needed to reinvent our approach to operations, leasing, and events.

We listened to our tenants and their urgent needs, we closely followed the latest public health news and guidance, and we scoured the marketplace for innovative solutions. In a matter of weeks, we developed Better Together, a comprehensive COVID-19 response program designed to bring people together again, safely.
 

Adam Schwegman
Adam Schwegman

Better Together was first deployed in April 2020 at Avalon, our mixed-use destination in Alpharetta, Ga., 25 miles from Atlanta. We reprogrammed Avalon’s common areas, supported tenants with their reopening strategies and added rules around social distancing and enhanced cleanliness to create a safe and vibrant gathering place for the community. We then moved on to customize it and implement it at our other mixed-use properties—Colony Square in Midtown Atlanta and Newport on the Levee in Newport, Ky.

As one of the first landlords in the market to reopen, we created an opportunity to lead the community out of isolation through inventive event strategies, new technology, and enhanced safety measures.

Events. We created and trademarked the name ExperienceMakers for the talented people who create exceptional guest experiences at our properties. They design more than 200 well-attended events every year at Avalon, and their ability to create events that conformed to new public health guidelines enforced during the pandemic was essential to making Better Together work.

We took to social media to poll the community on the types of events they felt comfortable attending and received more than 1,000 responses in just a few days. After analyzing the feedback, we redesigned Avalon’s events strategy to offer drive-in concerts, outdoor watch parties with socially distant squares, open-air Santa visits, and other creative activations.

Since March 2020, we have hosted more than 40 events at Avalon, all of which sold out within a matter of hours. We learned that the community was eager to come together again in well-controlled, outdoor gathering spaces. Now, more than ever, Avalon became an important destination for the community as a place to a place to get outside, to gather and socialize safely. Our goal was to give them a place where they could feel a sense of normalcy again.

Pop-ups. Once the pandemic began, we started looking for ways Avalon could support small businesses in our community. Knowing that local entrepreneurs needed affordable and flexible options, we launched the Holiday Market at Avalon, a six-week pop-up experience that provided temporary retail space for 11 local businesses owned by women. In addition to bringing a fresh shopping experience to guests and creating additional traffic for all retailers, the market was a platform for businesses to introduce their concepts to Avalon’s robust consumer base. In just six weeks, combined sales across the market vendors was more than $300,000. The success of the Holiday Market has resulted in another pop-up retail experience at Avalon, The Market at Avalon, which will host seven local women-owned businesses this spring.

Within the past year, Avalon saw more than five million guests, eclipsing every popular indoor retail outlet in metro Atlanta according to data sourced through Placer.ai which tracks foot traffic using mobile devices. Succeeding in keeping site activation high during the pandemic produced farther-reaching benefits. We signed eight permanent leases at Avalon since the start of the pandemic with national brands including TempurPedic, Onward Reserve, Peloton, High Country Outfitters and Monkee’s. Foot traffic at Avalon has returned close to pre-pandemic numbers.

What’s ahead. Being one of the first developers in our industry to make these investments was a bold move that yielded high sales performance for Avalon’s tenants and innovations in the commercial real estate industry during one of its most trying years. While some in our industry remain concerned about the long-term impact the pandemic will have, we remain bullish in our mixed-use strategy. Our approach was proved successful even during the height of the pandemic.

We crave interaction with others in life. We are energized by the activity on the street.  We take delight in people watching. We are enlivened when we are connected with our communities. Creating moments for people to soak up their social surroundings in an activated environment like Avalon is our business, and after months of isolation, our business is soaring in demand.  

Adam Schwegman, is a partner and senior VP of North American Properties in Atlanta, the developer and operator of Avalon, Birkdale Village, Colony Square, and Newport on the Levee.

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