Luciana Francese, like many of New York’s real estate professionals, didn’t know exactly where her career path would take her when she entered the working world.
“Real estate was kind of unconsciously in my life in a lot of ways but I never thought this was what I was going to do,” Francese, the new director of development and leasing at Acadia Realty Trust told Real Estate Weekly.
“Growing up, my grandfather was a general contractor and my dad was a literary professor. During the summers, he would work with my grandfather.”
Like her family before her, Francese planned on being involved with property and development in some way and chose to study urban design and architecture at NYU, before graduating with her Bachelors in 2006.
She approached the job market with an open mind and eventually accepted a position at Blumenfeld Development Group, a firm that specializes in developing big-box retail and office space.
“I worked at this boutique firm that really had a lot of large-scale projects and they ran the team pretty lean and mean,” she said.
“They offered me a lot of opportunity to learn and grow and be a part of something.”
After her nearly five years at Blumenfeld, Francese accepted her first director role with G&S Investors before moving on to Stonehenge Partners where she became that firm’s very first director of retail leasing.
In 2013, Francese was named vice president of retail development at Forest City Ratner Companies and went on to work on projects that included the Atlantic Terminal Shopping Center in Brooklyn.
With her move to Acadia in March this year, Francese is now focused on City Point, the expansive mixed use center that is currently under construction in Downtown Brooklyn.
“For us, City Point offers a great opportunity to serve a quickly growing population that certainly needs places to experience, but also places to do their errands and their normal shopping,” she said.
The 675,000 s/f retail center is vetting additional commercial leasing opportunities with Century 21, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, and CityTarget already slated to anchor the development when it opens in 2016.
When complete, City Point will also offer visitors Dekalb Market Hall. This foot court will span over 25,000 s/f and has already earned the attention of Eater, which labeled it as one of the 17 most anticipated food halls in America. When finished, it will likely have between 35 and 55 food vendors.
“The demand for quality retail in Brooklyn is booming, as the growing community and its visitors seek options for shopping, dining and experiencing the neighborhood,” said Francese.
“Each area of Brooklyn has its own distinct personality, creating even greater opportunities for retailers to make their mark. I think developers are doing a great job meeting this demand, further evidenced by the influx of national retailers flocking to the area.”
Francese feels that the influx to star stores in the borough has been a long time coming.
“I think it’s been brewing,” said Francese. “In the last handful of years, the retail industry has started to notice the neighborhoods in Brooklyn.”
It’s not surprising that Brooklyn’s rapid residential development over the past decade is drawing attention from entities such as restaurants and stores. However, rising rents and increased access to digital shopping serve as potential opponents to the health of brick-and-mortar retail.
Could Brooklyn’s retail renaissance collapse before it could ever truly start? Francese is adamant that there is no danger of that.
“I don’t know how the world is ultimately going to turn, but I do think there is something to be said about having a place to go and experience (a product),ˮ said Francese.
“Of course, there are reasons why people need to shop online, but there is nothing that can ever replace getting out of your seat, getting fresh air, and experiencing a lot of different things.” While she was unable to name any new tenants coming to CityPoint, Francese did say to expect the “typical mix that you would expect in an urban environment of a project of this scale.”
As for finding the next retail hotspot in the five boroughs, Francese didn’t pinpoint a particular neighborhood, but she believes any area in the city could eventually become a popular shopping destination.
“We’re an ever-growing population,” she said. “The lovely thing about New York is there’s always a new neighborhood to discover. I think the neighborhoods that maybe aren’t as popular always see a renaissance. There’s always a resiliency.”