Back in July, ICSC, then International Council of Shopping Centers, rebranded to Innovating Commerce Serving Communities. This was during the first massive wave of the pandemic that had brick and mortar shopping centers reeling as shutdowns loomed and commerce switching gears to at-home delivery and warehouse retail. ICSC, like many of its members, was suffering as conferences went virtual and capital became increasingly difficult to generate. The rebrand in some way, perfectly reflected the transformation that has been happening at shopping centers throughout the country. The savviest shopping center owners had already begun focusing on the larger needs of the community outside of everyday shopping. Gone are the days park, pay and leave. Post Covid, people prefer driving to a place where they hang out, socialize, exercise together, spending part of the day and of course – shop. The rebrand – Innovating Commerce Serving Communities – summarizes and put an exclamation point on the industry’s shift of focus from the shopping centers themselves to the influence they have in their communities.
Whether repositioning an older property or building ground up, landscape architecture is the keystone of making the public realm pop and serve as an integral amenity to the surrounding community. Below are some case studies from projects Mahan Rykiel has seen great return on investment for our clients:
MOSAIC DISTRICT: In the BizNow article by Jarred Schenke, North DeKalb Mall’s Future: 1,700 Apartments, Offices And A Hotel,” Schenke wrote, “DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry remarks that EDENS officials told him if customers linger on a property for an additional hour than they originally intended, they spend 17% more money.” EDENS, a development company that has been a national leader in repositioning shopping centers to become successful authentic places, has a special knack for finding local entrepreneurs and products for their projects. The EDENS project, Mosaic District in Merrifield, VA, is a perfect example of how former vast parking lots can be transformed into vibrant urban city centers.
THE COLLECTION: To lure people away from their cozy couch and Netflix binge, it’s critical to create placemaking through layered experiences. A moderate sized retail and gathering destination of 1-5 acres within a larger retail development can yield a huge impact for creating spaces where people want to be. Mahan Rykiel worked with the Chevy Chase Land Company and Streetsense on a rebranding and repositioning of The Collection, previously a high-end boutique retail center located in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Our team’s work focused on reinventing the site’s public spaces, with a renewed focus on the user and pedestrian experience. The ultimate goal was to transform underutilized spaces into active community destinations with refreshed retail and restaurant offerings. Key elements include an inviting plaza with fountains, an amphitheater, retail kiosks, and a restaurant courtyard for casual dining. With an investment of $17.55 million in public realm improvements and renovations, they saw an 18% increase in leasing.
The Collection at Chevy Chase Repositioning at a Glance
The Collection at Chevy Chase Layered Experiences
SUBURBAN SQUARE: In Ardmore, PA, our team worked with Kimco on creating multiple micro venues within five acres of the historic retail development, Suburban Square. Of the $70 million dollar reinvestment, roughly 7% went to landscape improvements that resulted in over 150,000 square feet of on-site public realm improvements. Included in those improvements was a 3,500 square foot upper courtyard which has been wildly successful in activating the space, even during covid times. During the conceptual design process, the courtyard was used to sign an anchor fitness tenant who now uses the open lawn throughout the year for group exercise and events. During the construction of the upper courtyard, the surrounding retail space was 100% leased. Overall, they saw a 3-5% increase in sales throughout the project after all improvements were made.
Suburban Square Repositioning at a Glance
BALLSTON QUARTER: In Ballston Virginia, the historic Ballston Quarter literally tore the roof off and created a new common space for dining, play, performances and more. In the Washington Business Journal article, Best Redevelopment: Ballston Quarter, Carmen Strauchon, development associate at Brookfield Properties describes the importance of the public realm: “The redevelopment of Ballston Common was a long time in the making. For more than 10 years, the owner worked to acquire the Macy’s Furniture Store site, vital to making the project whole — that property is where Origin, a new 406-unit residential building, now sits. It all stemmed from a design that opened the project to the street, forming the crux of its placemaking strategy.”
“The redevelopment of Ballston Common was a long time in the making. For more than 10 years, the owner worked to acquire the Macy’s Furniture Store site, vital to making the project whole — that property is where Origin, a new 406-unit residential building, now sits. It all stemmed from a design that opened the project to the street, forming the crux of its placemaking strategy.”
DANIA POINTE: On a recent project in Dania Pointe, FL, Mahan Rykiel worked with Kimco to reposition the 102-acre premier mixed-use development with nearly 1 million square feet of retail and restaurants in addition to luxury apartments, hotels, Class A offices and public event space. The new pedestrian and community focus has re-energized the project. South Florida Business Journal’s Senior Reporter Brian Bandell reported in September 2021, “According to New Hyde Park, New York-based Kimco Realty’s (NYSE: KIM) second quarter investor presentation, the 330,000-square-foot first phase of retail at Dania Pointe is 97% leased and the 417,000-square-foot second and third phases of the retail are 66% leased.” (The first phase of the project included a large outdoor event space that has been used for outdoor markets and entertainment. Covid has certainly slowed the second and third phase. Imagine what that would look like without any outdoor amenities or ability to hold events or create an outdoor marketspace.) Those early investments in the public realm have had a great return on investment with new tenants and customers alike.
As landscape architects and urban designers, we have a long history of promoting the benefits of creating active outdoor spaces that integrate the environment, aesthetics, and holistic function within a community. Now, the numbers are rolling in, and they speak for themselves – commerce that serves the community serves everyone, including the investor.