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Winter 2003 Vibrant Venues

They may travel 50 miles on Saturday afternoon for the live-music extravaganza they saw on the evening news, then stay for dinner at the Moroccan restaurant that’s getting rave reviews. They may come on Friday night to meet people at the dance club, or hook up with friends at the comedy club, or take a date for espresso at the Italian caffé. They may show up Wednesday to take in a theatrical event in center court—free—and spend a few hours shopping after. And local kids can come on any day to practice their moves at the skateboard park.

Today’s shoppers gravitate to the mall when that mall is one of an increasing number of “destination centers” that are cropping up around the country. Known variously as entertainment centers, festival marketplaces, urban villages or marketplaces, mixed-use centers or by a number of other terms, these are high-traffic, supercharged shopping centers. They combine retail, dining, entertainment and sometimes activity, thereby offering shoppers much more than the typical local mall does.

If you’re ready to think about getting in on the “destination” trend and some “retail-tainment” action, a number of options are open to you. To get you started, here’s a look at several premier properties—some new, some well established, and all of them generating excitement along with sales.

Colorado Mills
Lakewood (Denver), CO

imageColorado Mills is a $250 million, 1.2 million-s/f center that opened in November 2002 with more than 18 anchor stores, and more than 200 manufacturers’ and retail outlets and unique specialty stores. It’s the latest project for the Mills Corporation (Arlington, VA), the company that coined and trademarked the term “shoppertainment.”

Shops here include Last Call!, Neiman Marcus, Off-5th Saks Fifth Avenue, Target, Skechers, Borders Books & Music, Bath & Body Works, Games Workshop Hobby Center, The Children’s Place, and Eddie Bauer. The center’s specialty leasing program is still in development. In addition to a huge variety of themed and casual-dining restaurants, world-class entertainment venues include Vans Skate Park; the Polar Ice Skating Arena; Jilian’s restaurant and bowling center; the latest ESPN X-Games Skatepark; and a 16-screen, stadium-seating United Artist Theater that will anchor E Street, Colorado Mills’ unique outdoor entertainment and dining promenade.

Strategically located 10 miles west of downtown Denver, five miles north of the world-famous Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre, and nine miles west of the homes of four professional sports teams—Mile High Stadium/the Denver Broncos (NFL); Coors Field/the Colorado Rockies (MLB); the Pepsi Center/the Colorado Avalanche (NHL) and the Denver Nuggets (NBA)—this center is expected to draw millions of locals and tourists year-round.

“Colorado Mills is a unique project to the Denver market,” says Ramsey Meiser, VP and development director for Mills. “The market to date has a number of traditional regional malls, but doesn’t have any kind of shopping-entertainment-destination [centers] like the Mills Corporation builds. So it’s a very different project, and we’re very confident that we’ll be able to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace.” Meiser notes that Colorado Mills is on Denver’s west side, an area that’s experiencing tremendous growth and “doesn’t have any kind of enclosed-shopping opportunities.” As a result, he says the center will be an oasis for locals who are “lacking a place right now to come and shop and spend. We’re going to be their shopping destination.” He adds that Colorado has started to attract more tourists in summer than in winter, and that it’s one of the most-visited states in the country. And with I-70 running right next to the center, he says “tourists have to drive right by our front door.”

Meiser expects 15-20 million visitors to Colorado Mills each year—which would be right on target for a Mills center. According to their corporate statements, 220 million visitors shopped the 13 Mills-owned shopping centers in 11 states in 2001. That’s an average of nearly 17 million visitors per center. Also according to corporate statements: each year, the Mills centers attract 30 percent more people than the number attending Major League Baseball games, and almost four times the number of people who visit Disney attractions. That may be why the occupancy rates for Mills centers average 93 percent, and specialty-store sales average $330 per s/f. In 2001, tenant sales in Mills centers totaled $3.9 billion.

CocoWalk
Coconut Grove (Miami), FL

imageOn a smaller scale at a little more than 210,000 s/f, the four-story CocoWalk in the heart of Coconut Grove is widely recognized as the nation’s first urban entertainment center (it opened in 1990). Today, it stands as one of the leading centers of its kind, attracting more than 3.5 million visitors a year and garnering $600-$700 in sales per s/f. Mediterranean architecture, towering palms in the courtyard and beautiful terraces that offer panoramic views of “the Grove” make this a unique outdoor center where visitors can enjoy casual shopping, dining and entertainment, feel the tropical breezes, people-watch, and listen to daily live local music—salsa, flamenco, jazz, pop and everything in between.

Nicknamed “The Heart and Beat of Coconut Grove,” CocoWalk is home to eight RMU-based specialty tenants offering Southern-resort-type products, more than 30 permanent retailers, unique restaurants such as the Nicaraguan steakhouse Los Ranchos, a 16-screen “gourmet cinema” that features international films, and a vibrant music scene that attracts locals and tourists every day of the week. And the newly constructed 20,000-s/f Offices of CocoWalk, this prime office space overlooking beautiful Biscayne Bay promises to bring retailers a “consistent customer [base],” says Mani Maldonado, who handles permanent and temporary leasing for Steiner & Associates, Inc., which manages the property. “[Office workers] get the word out about what we sell and what we do on the property—word of mouth advertising,” he says.

The offices were added in last spring, part of a $7 million expansion that included an additional 12,000 s/f of retail space for a four-level combination Gap/Gap Kids/Gap Body store—creating the largest Gap in south Florida. Additional permanent retailers include Banana Republic, White House/Black Market, Express, Victoria’s Secret, Koko & Palenki, B Dalton Booksellers and a host of specialty tenants who carry “Indonesian-type” or resort-type merchandise, as well as restaurants such as The Cheesecake Factory, Hooters and several unique outdoor cafés. The center’s latest addition to its entertainment offerings is Cirque, a two-level nightclub that opened last fall. It offers upscale entertainment in more than 15,000 s/f that features two grand staircases uniting the dance floor with the bar area.

Maldonado says CocoWalk’s biggest draw is “our atmosphere alone. We’re sort of cozy and unique, and a lot of the retailers… in the center really cater to the customer who wants something you don’t see everywhere. And we’ve trained our retailers to be a little bit more on the edge of customer service.”

Santana Row
San Jose , CA

imageGreat cities are remembered for neighborhoods like this,” says the Santana Row marketing brochure. The developer, Federal Realty Investment Trust, focuses on building urban neighborhoods that combine unique shopping, dining, entertainment and living opportunities. Santana Row, which had its grand opening this past November (delayed two months by a fire that affected retail and residential spaces), is Federal Realty’s latest project. This neighborhood development is a mixed-use, street-access retail development in the heart of Silicon Valley. Nine buildings house more than 100 luxury, boutique and brand-name shops in nearly 700,000 s/f, including Burberry, Gucci, Tod’s, Borders Books & Music, Anthropologie, Crate & Barrel, Ann Taylor Loft, Diesel, Landau, New Balance, Ben & Jerry’s, Optical Illusions, Shoez, W’s Salon, and Z Gallerie. Along with the shops, more than a dozen restaurants and 1,200 residential units (a mix of townhouses, villas, lofts and apartments) are connected by a 1,500′ “Main Street” with cafés, wide sidewalks and landscaped curbs that invite strolling, stopping and shopping. There’s also an art-screen cinema and a year-round farmer’s market.

In the center of the complex is the 213-room, four-star Hotel Valencia, a boutique hotel with Mediterranean-inspired architecture, a grand courtyard, European fountain, and outdoor fireplace. The hotel offers out-of-town visitors luxury lodging and amenities, including a rooftop wine bar with stunning mountain views.

Throughout the complex are beautifully landscaped parks and plazas. In fact, the development’s name comes from Santana Park, a nearby half-acre park that was incorporated into Santana Row and features many of the development’s entertainment offerings, such as outdoor music and theater events, fashion shows, food tastings and wine festival, art fair, children’s events, and even chess tables.

Santana Row’s specialty retail program is as unique as the rest of the development, says Deborah Kravitz, a partner with Provenzano Resources, Inc. (Los Angeles and San Diego), which has been helping Federal Realty develop the specialty retail program. “[It] offers many types of [specialty retail] opportunities: full-time, weekends-only, and farmers market [spaces],” says Kravitz. “Merchants who want to test a product or concept or who are looking for a seasonal possibility are welcome.” A half-dozen cart merchants occupy center-provided units located throughout Santana Row Park. The carts are available year-round, and “licenses are negotiated for a timeframe that’s [appropriate] to the product [the retailer] sells,” Kravitz says. “We’re looking for unique, high-end merchandise,” either seasonal or year-round product. Retailers with custom-made, center-approved units are also welcome.

Fifteen weekend-only merchants are also located throughout the development, in three different types of units: “interactive,” “retail” and “artist.” More specialty retailers are located in the Farmer’s Market, designed to house more than 80 vendors on tables or in custom-made spaces; the Market takes place on Wednesdays and Sundays. Temporary tenants occupy some in-line spaces in the development as well. In addition, the 400-s/f Park Pavilion also has space for one or two retailers.

The Gateway
Salt Lake City, UT

The Gateway, built by The Boyer Company to the tune of $375 million, is a three-block, mixed-use development that opened in November 2001. Strategically located in the bustling center of downtown Salt Lake City, The Gateway sits across the street from the Delta Center (home of the NBA Utah Jazz and the WNBA Utah Starz), two blocks from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Temple Square (visited by more than five million people a year—the most visited attraction in Utah), and two blocks from the Salt Palace Convention Center, which drew more than 4.5 million conventioneers in 2001. As if that weren’t enough, a light-rail train brings shoppers from as far as Draper (about 25 miles south) and drops them at the center’s front door, where the historic Union Pacific Depot stands.

The Gateway has 90 shops and nine premier restaurants. According to Tracy James, the center’s GM, most of the retail tenants are exclusive to the center. “The reason I think we’re unique is that when we built this center, we thought it through,” he says. “We didn’t want to build [another] typical center—we wanted to be set apart from everybody else, so we sought [exclusive] tenants—22 tenants you cannot find anywhere else in Utah, and 43 tenants you cannot find anywhere else in the Salt Lake Valley.” Those tenants include Coldwater Creek, bebe, Hawk Skate, Anthropologie, Subtle Tones and Galyans, a 91,000-s/f sports store with a 76-foot indoor climbing wall, which James says is “just a spectacular thing to watch the kids climb on every day of the week.”

Extended weekend musical acts and street performers add to the excitement and attract crowds. Many of these events take place in The Olympic Legacy Plaza, an open-air plaza that’s larger than a football field. The Plaza is dominated by the Olympic Snowflake Fountain, a massive, high-tech $3.5 million “attraction in itself” that features an interactive water-and-music show every half hour. “We’re adding another, even more musically charged and event-charged element to the center with the latest newcomer to The Gateway—Virgin Records,” says James.

Within its first year in business, The Gateway has become “the icon in Salt Lake City,” James says. “We received world and national recognition with the Olympics being here,” and now, “we’re the gathering place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.” The center continues to expand its offerings. The Clark Planetarium, scheduled to open in February, is “the only true, branded IMAX big screen… in the state.” James describes it as “a state-of-the-art Evans & Sutherland unobstructed dome that’s just phenomenal… the first in the country.” Equally impressive: a new children’s museum is scheduled to open by 2005, making The Gateway truly one of a kind and supercharged.

Irvine Spectrum Center
Irvine, CA

What makes the 826,000-s/f Irvine Spectrum Center a favorite shopping destination of tourists and locals year after year? Stunning architecture, a variety of unique shops, dozens of formal and casual dining options, and numerous entertainment opportunities. Madison Marquette Retail Services (Irvine, CA) manages the property.

The center’s architecture, reminiscent of ancient Morocco and Andalusia, set the tone from the outset for a “wow” shopping experience unlike that at any other mall in the country. “As far as appearance goes, Irvine Spectrum Center is much more architecturally pleasing” than other centers, says Lee Eckholm, specialty leasing manager. “The Irvine Company’s [the center's developer] attention to detail is like nothing I’ve seen. They look at every single element that’s going into a center and think about how that element will affect the center’s overall appearance.”

The center recently added the Paseo Shops area, a 180,000-s/f open-air section with in-line tenants surrounding a plaza, which opened in October 2002. Its brick walkways lead to a very large fountain; palm trees, terraced gardens, playful fountains, a replica vintage carousel and a giant Ferris wheel put the final touches on the center’s unique look. “It’s visually spectacular,” Eckholm says. The theme also extends to the center’s specialty retail tenants: 30 carts, 16 kiosks, 7 wall units and newly designed RMUs for a weekend-only tenant program. “I have a cart that’s called an ‘art obelisk,’ based on the same shape [as the


Nancy Tanker

Nancy Tanker is the former managing editor of Specialty Retail Report. She has covered the specialty retail industry for nearly 15 years for a variety of publications and can be reached at srrtanker@mchsi.com.

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