Creating a sense of community by mixing other uses with retail projects is a change occurring in retail development, according to industry experts at the Urban Land Institute’s Reinventing Retail Conference in Los Angeles, Feb. 16-17, 2006.
Adding new uses, such as a library or a post office, creates opportunities for retail as a generator of communities. This resurgence toward creating community in retail projects requires seven elements: cultural mix, multiple anchors, place-making, identity (branding), social retailing, identity retail (such as Apple), and event retail.
“People come to experience the overall environment that they don’t get elsewhere,” says William S. Taubman, chief operating officer, Taubman Centers Inc., Bloomfield Hills, MI. For example, during the Christmas season, Taubman Centers built 30-foot snow globes at a mall that provided an opportunity for children to become actors in various plays. The positive publicity generated by the project attracted visitors seeking to be entertained as well as to shop.
Building an environment where people want to come can be achieved by branding. “Branding is about engaging people and creating an identity,” says Michael S. Rubin, president, MRA Intl.,Philadelphia. That identity should be localized and place-based, and there should be a connection between identity and the experience, he said.
“Find a way to give somebody something they won’t forget,” explains Steven Schussler of Minneapolis, creator of the Rainforest Cafe. His new venture, T-REX, will open in Kansas City in late April 2006. Schussler describes T-REX as an “interactive education experience” with dinosaurs, fossils, and space travel where the family can “eat, shop, explore, and discover.” Schussler spent the past 6 years creating T-REX after he sold the Rainforest Café in 2000. Schussler says the first visit involves the “wow” factor; but after that, people come back because of good service. Demographics, level of education, and household income are critical factors in determining where to locate, he explained.
Creating a destination can involve any combination of entertainment, gaming, restaurants, student housing, shopping, or lifestyle retail, says Blake L. Cordish, vice president, The Cordish Co., Baltimore. The Cordish Co. uses public/private partnerships to create entertainment districts that hold public events and live music, such as the Power Plant in Baltimore; 4th Street Live in Louisville, KY; the Power & Light District in Kansas City, MO; and Ballpark Village in St. Louis. This use of public space with public events provides an engaging and welcoming venue for people to gather. Cordish says his venues draw from a regional perspective within a 1-hour drive time.
It is necessary to provide a reason for people to come to a retail center and experts agree that the best way of doing that is by creating a sense of community where people can interact, see and be seen, and be entertained. “There’s a certain way of creating urban premises,” says Yaromir Steiner, chief executive officer, Steiner + Associates, Columbus, OH. “We have lost track of that for the past 50 years; in that context, a mall is a mistake. In the past 10 years, we’re becoming aware of the mistakes we made; errors of the past 50 years are being corrected.”
This information was reprinted with permission from the Urban Land Institute (www.uli.org), a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide responsible leadership in the use of land in order to enhance the total environment. Established in 1936, the institute has more than 29,000 members representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines.