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If you’re after a hot tenant, look no further than food.

From food trucks to high-end restaurants and everything in between, dining has never been more essential to the shopping center experience. “E-commerce has made it more important for retail centers to enhance the experience,” said Terry Montesi, CEO, Trademark Property Co. “And food works great with retail.”

And the mix extends beyond the familiar restaurant names. Increasingly, shopping centers are getting creative when it comes to integrating food into the shopping experience. Trademark’s upcoming Waterside, a mixed-use development in Fort Worth, Texas, will feature several “micro-restaurants” from local entrepreneurs. The eateries, averaging from 500 sq. ft. to 1,000 sq. ft., will be clustered around the center’s central common space, a large area that will feature shade trees, public art, outdoor seating and restrooms. The set-up is such that the restaurants do not have to go through the expense of building restrooms in their spaces, or even adding seating.

“It’s really a new twist on the indoor food court,” Montesi said. And then there’s City Point, the 1.8 million-sq.-ft. mixed-use development under construction in Brooklyn, New York, where an enormous food hall is likely to be a big draw. The project’s DeKalb Market Hall will house about 40 “unique” food vendors. “We are partnering with Anna Castellani, the owner of Foragers Market (an upscale grocery store with two locations in the city), who is curating the collection,” said Chris Conlon, executive VP and COO for Acadia Realty Trust.

As Conlon explains it, DeKalb Market Hall will not be orderly. Instead, it will be noisy and filled with sights and sounds, with lots of individual build-outs. “This is Brooklyn — you have to deliver a level of authenticity,” he said. But that’s not all by any means. City Point has also landed an outpost, complete with an outdoor beer garden, of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, an Austin-based movie theater/restaurant chain. “Retailing can’t be retail alone,” Conlon said. “It has to have experiential components, and food is one of them.” — Marianne Wilson

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