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Retail

Today’s retail all about the feel good factor, say RECon experts

For retail to be successful — think young.

That was the message from retail executives discussing the evolution of retail leasing and what retail will look like in the future during a panel at ICSC RECon in Las Vegas Monday.

Michael Goldban, a senior vice president at Brookfield, talked about the process of turning the former World Financial Center into Brookfield Place.

Rendering of Le District in Brookfield Place
Rendering of Le District in Brookfield Place

“One of our major office tenants said we’re leaving and we were faced with a three million square foot hole,” said Goldban. That’s when the company decided to change things up.

The experience shaped what retail can do for a place, said Goldban of the Financial District’s renaissance in recent years.

On the Far West Side, Brookfield’s current project, Manhattan West, is a seven million s/f mixed-use development, or what Goldban calls “the city of the future.”

“When we were thinking of the future seven million square feet at Manhattan West — we haven’t found a better term for it — what we call it is millenial culture,” said Goldban. “It’s not just about millenials, but millenial culture. Now, millenials are driving the culture.”

Goldban argued that millenial culture is not specific to millenials. “It’s CEOs that want the experiences. Things have to be authentic. They care about architecture, they don’t want the same ol’ same ol’. They want choices,” he said. “We think about making something relevant for where the culture is going, and food is so important. It is the culture now.”

Brookfield focused on catering to the needs of the “built-in daytime residents” that will populate the office complexes at Manhattan West.

“You have the population and high-end luxury shopping, but what’s in the middle is more exciting,” said Goldban. Public spaces are important to the project, he added, noting that Manhattan West will have a two-acre park that will feature events designed to bring people to the neighborhood.

“We’re going to do something really unique and special that will incorporate elements that make it the place to be for the next generation,” he said.

Andrea Drasites, managing director at Blackstone, sees the millennial culture touching other generations.

“Millennials are becoming more intellectual,” she said. “It’s bleeding over into every generation, including baby boomers moving back into the city. People want to experience, they want to feel young again and have a reason to go somewhere.”

Even when it comes to the “same ol’ same ol’”, brokers are thinking about how to make it different and keep it relevant.
Starbucks just recently signed a deal for Brookfield Place, but instead of the usual build-out, they’re opening what they call a

“Starbucks Reserve,” a 4,000 s/f space that will feature limited-edition coffee and fancier artwork and finishes.
When Blackstone purchased StuyTown, they were faced with 125,000 s/f of retail on the perimeter of the project, that served the 11,000 housing units in the massive residential complex.

“When we looked at it and thought about owning it forever, we thought, we want to make it better, a place where people want to live,” said Drasites.

Stuy Town
Stuy Town

The company is exploring what they can do to “holistically” change the environment, for StuyTown residents and residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re looking to change amenities inside the project and create retail experiences on First Avenue and 20th Street, and it will drive people to come from other parts Manhattan,” she said.

Goldban urged retailers and brokers to focus on relevancy, and pick the right location.

“At the end of the day, whenever you try to look too far out in future, you will be wrong, it will change 20 times,” he said. “Being flexible is important. Real estate is in many ways still about location, location, location. If you have the right location and sell it the right way, it will change 100 times over the next 10 years. it will evolve, but pick good locations.”

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