On the Level: Experienced outtakes
The most enjoyable aspect of my job is getting to talk with developers who have been in retail real estate for decades. They’ve seen it all and built it all. Risk is as familiar to them as the family dog. I spoke with several of them in putting together this year’s Top 10 Retail Center Experiences list. Yet, with space at a premium, I had to leave out some of the best stuff. So, I turn my column over to them and the pearls left on the cutting room floor.
Irvine Co. Retail properties
I had the privilege of working with David Simon for many years. So thoughtful. So creative. But [Irvine Co. founder] Donald Bren is an equally amazing man. One of the things that makes Irvine unique is that we think of ourselves as one integrated company. We make it special for people who rent from us. If you live in one of our 10,000 apartment units, you can have dinner delivered from any one of our restaurants for less than $5. We have free shuttles for everyone to get from anywhere to anywhere — offices, residential, or retail. That’s one of the reasons we get 17 million people a year at Irvine Spectrum Center.
We were always in experiential retail. When we came to Gainesville, it was a desert. We had the first grocery store and we did anything to get people to come. We had the donkey that jumped into the pool. We had the mechanical elephant. We baked a 1,200-lb. cake to make the Guinness Book of World Records. That’s how it’s always been. That’s how I was raised.
What makes a place like Soho so exciting? It’s all these people doing different things in the same space. At Crocker Park, we have a ratio of 5-to-1 non-retail to retail. All these people come down into the same spot for some different reason. Then lace into that all of the amenities we provide — like the food kiosks we brought in from Italy — so many things we have here that have become part of the culture. Crocker Park is a submarket, it dictates its own comps and rental structure. It’s a thing unto itself.
When we bought [Plymouth Meeting Mall], it was pretty clear to us that with King of Prussia Mall and Willow Grove flanking it, the traditional retail approach was not going to work. What’s the old saying? Necessity is the mother of invention? In this case, necessity was the mother of creativity. We began to think about how we could change it from a traditional mall. About a year ago, we got the Macy’s back and now we have about half a dozen new tenants taking that space — all dining, health, and fitness. We were able to use that to catapult Plymouth Meeting into becoming something very different than a suburban mall.
There’s so much more to [the Century City renovation] than tenant curation. When you look at the collaboration with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that lets us select and display pieces on a long-term basis, it creates an aura of authenticity around Century City. It’s not a project that will be easy to replicate. It’s authentic for the community and the culture it serves. The beauty of new platforms like this in retail centers is it gives you a wider outreach. A new shopper is coming in wanting to be part of that energy.
That’s the stuff that PowerPoint presentations are made of. So, the only thing I can add to this is to wish you all a summer of wonderful experiences.