Mixed-Use Mania

The Sembler Co. felt right at home amid the mixed-use buzz at this year’s International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) spring convention in Las Vegas, May 20-23. The St. Petersburg, Fla.-based developer, which first launched its foray into mixed-use development just two years ago, now has tacked 3 million-sq.-ft. of mixed retail development onto the square footage already complete or nearing completion.

Seaport Square Boston Developed by W/S Development

Over the last five years, Boston has rediscovered its Seaport District, and part of the renaissance has included the addition of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Big Dig, and now, Boston Seaport Square, which will link the South Boston waterfront to the city and to the Seaport district.

The mixed-use development will create a new residential neighborhood and new school, establish an active commercial boulevard—complete with 750,000-sq.-ft. of fashion apparel, boutiques and other retail, plus restaurants, grocery, and entertainment venues totaling 1.5 million-sq.-ft.—and design an urban park at the center of the square.

Scheduled completion of the W/S Development project is summer 2011.

“When we initially began to tackle mixed-use developments, we were entering the world of the unknown,” said Jeff Fuqua, president. “Now we are extremely comfortable with mixed-use, and our favorite projects are those that have a residential component to them.”

Larry Sullivan, COO and CFO of Irvine, Calif.-based Passco Cos., agreed. On its ICSC display menu was a Hawaiian development—the retail component is called Waikoloa Village—that is undergoing a transformation from a neighborhood grocery-anchored lifestyle center to one with a residential and hotel component. “If you can put the retail component with the housing component, that’s the mix of uses that is receiving the most positive reactions,” said Sullivan.

Another mixed-use project highlighted at the convention was one that is a unique combination of New Urbanism and lifestyle. Ashford Park, in Sandusky, Ohio, will combine retirement living with lifestyle retail in an eco-friendly environment (see sidebar in this story). Developed by The Cafaro Co., based in Youngstown, Ohio, in partnership with New Albany, Ohio-based Centurion Development Group, Ashford Park is taking an existing mall—Sandusky Mall, owned by Cafaro—and connecting to it a community of baby boomers and empty-nesters. And Ashford Park has the added benefit of a reliance on alternative energy sources.

Ashford Park Sandusky, Ohio Developed by Centurion Development Group and The Cafaro Co.

Attached to Cafaro’s Sandusky Mall via climate-controlled corridors will be Ashford Park, a community of high-rise condominiums and patio homes appealing to baby boomers and empty nesters.

Slated to begin construction this year, Ashford Park will have easy access to 22 miles of Lake Erie shoreline and championship golf courses. In a “new urbanist” design, the pedestrian-friendly community will house a spa, restaurants, creative arts studios, a chapel and other amenities—all in an eco-friendly, mixed-use development.

“It’s not necessarily that this group—baby boomers and empty nesters—are ‘greener’ than other population groups,” said Peter Macrae, president of Columbus, Ohio-based Triad Architects, the project’s architecture and design firm, “but rather this group particularly benefits from green strategies.” Reducing utility expenses through green building practices is key for those on fixed incomes, explained Macrae.

In this editor’s opinion, of all the projects spotlighted at the 2007 ICSC Spring Convention, the one that stood out because of its sheer ingenuity was City Creek Center, located in downtown Salt Lake City, and a $1.5 billion joint venture between local Property Reserve, Inc. and Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based Taubman Co. (see side-bar). Not only will City Creek Center—part of a major mixed-use development transforming the heart of downtown—feature nearly 800,000-sq.-ft. of retail anchored by Nordstrom, Macy’s and Dillard’s, it will unveil a fully retractable glass roof over the retail. Incredibly, this world-class center will have the option of being an open-air Main Street shopping center, or an enclosed mall—practically at the touch of a button.

City Creek Center Salt Lake City, Utah Developed by Property Reserve Inc. and The Taubman Co.

City Creek Center is part of a major mixed-use development designed to revitalize downtown Salt Lake City. Eight hundred thousand square feet of retail will be anchored by Nordstrom, Macy’s and Dillard’s. The fully integrated, mixed-use project includes a Marriott hotel, 1.4 million-sq.-ft. of office space, residences, retail and restaurants, and 5,000 below-grade parking spaces. Common areas feature a living ecosystem with lush landscaping and live trout streams.

Most notable is a fully retractable glass roof over the retail that turns the center into a true downtown Main Street experience.

The project is slated for a fall 2011 opening date.

At a time when enclosed malls have fallen out of favor and open-air centers are at their most popular—and considering it wasn’t long ago that the opposite was true—perhaps the most strategic use in today’s mixed-use developments is a retractable roof that allows a center to be both.

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