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The Top 10 COMEBACK Retail Center Experiences: No. 7 Assembly Row

Al Urbanski

Normally, this spot in our July-August issue presents the year’s Top 10 Retail Center Experiences, an all-star lineup of retail centers that over-achieve in adding merriment to the merchandise. But guest experiences have been few in this virus-plagued year, so Chain Store Age decided to shine a light on centers and retail real estate companies that are leading the way in creating safe, yet still-inviting experiences to draw crowds back to their properties. In this challenging time, our COMEBACK centers are re-engaging their visitors with society, not just retail. The editors of CSA's No. 7 pick is: 

When we visited this town-within-a-town on the outskirts of Boston as part our New England Top Stops tour last fall, one of the most memorable images we took home was a pack of kids crowded around the life-sized giraffe replica outside of Legoland. Now that 15-ft.-tall plastic ruminant sports a big black mask with a sunflowers on it.

Sunflowers have sprung up all around the streets of Assembly Row, located in Somerville, Mass. — in shop windows, on sidewalk signage, billboards, bathroom doors, hand sanitizers, and automatic parking lot gates. Federal Realty chose this striking image of freshness to signify its property as a welcoming, clean, and safe environment in a flu-flooded land.

“The sunflower is a sign of life. It’s something that grows in fresh air. It’s bright and colorful and big. It’s a visual manifestation of a place that people will feel comfortable to re-enter,” said Federal senior VP Patrick McMahon.

The sunflowers at Assembly Row are not merely graphic. Actual sunflowers have been planted around the grounds and the windshield wipers of visitors’ cars are planted with “Thank You” cards containing sunflower seeds. 

“Aside from retail, we have offices, condos, and hotel, and so what we really wanted to do was address those multiple populations and encourage them to come back,” McMahon said. “From the beginning, we decided we needed something that was very visible.”

Stay tuned for daily profiles of the next eight centers. Until then, catch up on what you missed:

No. 1 RIO
No. 2 Easton Town Center
No. 3 Halcyon
No. 4 Westfield Galleria at Roseville
No. 5 The Avenue East Cobb
No. 6 MainPlace


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