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Mixed-use makes for good retail


As part of our in-depth coverage of mixed-use developments – see the October 2011 issue of Chain Store Age – we talked with Rob Wetherald, VP development for Peoria, Ill.-based Cullinan Properties, Ltd., owner and developer of the Streets of St. Charles mixed-use project in metro St. Louis, about how the format draws, and supports, retail.

How important are design and amenities to today’s mixed-use projects, especially with regard to the retail component?

Successful mixed-use developments create a “community” that carefully blends various types of users, including shoppers, diners, office workers and residents. The development plan must present a pleasant, safe and attractive environment in which it is easy to navigate and maneuver by foot, automobile and other modes of transportation. Unlike other developments that segregate residential areas from business areas, mixed-use developments promote and encourage a neighborhood atmosphere. This is reinforced by the inclusion of common areas, amenities, signage and other elements that make for a cohesive design. This is referred to by urban planners, as the “city within a city.”

As in many aspects of life today, the ecology plays a large role in the design of mixed-use developments. By their very nature, mixed-use plans place homes, offices, shops and restaurants all in close proximity, fostering a “walk-ability” that is not possible in settings that keep the various uses separated by streets and by distance. As people choose a greener and more sustainable lifestyle, mixed-use developments offer a way to live those goals by eliminating the need to drive to work or to run errands. More and more, mixed-use developments are springing up in urban central locations, providing the opportunity to walk or ride a bike instead of hopping in the car. People leave their cars at home, which alleviates traffic, emissions and probably stress!

Successful mixed-use developments are designed to allow a smooth flow of traffic. These developments lend themselves to smarter transportation planning both within the development itself and on a larger scale as well. With proper master planning, communities can be provided with multiple routes to major destinations, which in turn alleviates traffic – even during times that are traditionally congested.

As in the case of all real estate, location is a key to success. The successful mixed-use development offers close proximity to a host of “urban” amenities, including schools, healthcare facilities and entertainment venues. As multi-family housing units expand into the urban landscape, people of all ages are demanding more affordable and manageable living quarters in vibrant, convenient and entertainment-driven environments.

Developers and retailers alike are looking to be a part of an experience that captures all of these elements.

Talk to us about Streets of St. Charles, your mixed-use project currently under development.

The Streets of St. Charles really embodies all of the components of a successful mixed-use development. It is located in the metropolitan St. Louis area, and is currently in construction with Phase I opening in 2012.

Streets of St. Charles will provide a “360-degree experience” to retailers, offering a captive residential and office component with a highly sought after daytime population.

Located at the intersection of Interstate 70 and South Fifth Street, Streets of St. Charles is quickly establishing itself as the destination in St. Charles County and the surrounding region for shopping, dining, entertainment and also a place in which to live and work. With incredible access and visibility from I-70 – with 187,000 cars driving by each day – the 26-acre site will include approximately 1.4 million sq. ft. of space in a safe, convenient and distinctive environment unlike anything in the greater St. Louis metropolitan area.

About 250,000 sq. ft. of restaurants and shops will anchor the project, with 250,000 sq. ft. of office space above and around the retail. The project will include two hotels, a healthclub facility and a 15-screen movie theater. Since the medical field is one of the largest employers in the St. Louis market, Cullinan anticipates several medical office tenants. The project will include several hundred upscale residential units that will initially be offered as rental apartments but will be designed and appointed like condominiums. Streets of St. Charles will be unique to the area and certainly different than anything in the St. Louis area.

In planning the project, we strove to create a site that is both vehicular and pedestrian-friendly while ensuring that every use meshes together properly. The development team logged many hours exploring the various possibilities for the site in order to refine the town center nature of the project. The project will be adaptable to the changing needs of retailers, restaurateurs and office tenants. Centered on a main boulevard with an eco-friendly rain garden as its feature, Streets of St. Charles will offer its own environment, filled with wonderful attractions and services that provide amenity to the community. Four different points of entry into the development will greatly mitigate traffic congestion, and ample, structured parking will be positioned so shoppers, diners and office tenants have easy access to their respective uses.

Streets of St. Charles will be a wonderful addition to the vibrant center of life in St. Charles, providing a compliment to the Historic Main Street District and other attractions in the surrounding area.

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