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Vertically Championed

When Whole Foods Market and Lord & Taylor paired to jointly anchor an ultra-cool redevelopment in Stamford, Conn., a distinctive shopping experience may have been unearthed—promising to pool department store chic and grocery store hip.

In a June press conference filled with fanfare, Purchase, N.Y.-based National Realty & Development Corp. (NRDC), in concert with Lord & Taylor senior executives, unveiled plans to redevelop the Lord & Taylor property in Stamford, Conn., into a Lord & Taylor and Whole Foods Market co-anchored center that will also accommodate additional retail.

According to John Orrico, president of NRDC, the existing 150,000-sq.-ft. Lord & Taylor structure will be expanded to 300,000 sq. ft. to accommodate a new 190,000-sq.-ft. Lord & Taylor prototype store, a 60,000-sq.-ft. Whole Foods Market and another 50,000 sq. ft. of compatible retail tenants, the likes of which haven’t yet been determined.

“Our present focus is to redevelop this the Lord & Taylor component of the combo is one that is changing its persona and raising its profile. “Lord & Taylor intends to improve its product mix, raising the quality and the type of merchandise it has within its stores,” explained Orrico, who speaks with authority as NRDC is owned by Robert C. and Richard A. Baker, the principals of NRDC Realty Advisors and NRDC Equity Partners, which purchased Lord & Taylor for about $1.2 billion last October.

Lord & Taylor- and Whole Foods Market-anchored Redevelopment Project

Location: Stamford, Conn., at the convergence of High Ridge and Long Ridge RoadsSize: 300,000 sq. ft. on 12 acresDeveloper: National Realty & Development Corp.Status: Currently in the approval phase, with a 2009 completion date set for Lord & Taylor and 2010 for the rest of the project

The heightened demographic of the new-and-improved Lord & Taylor is remarkably compatible with the Whole Foods shopper—making for some serious cross-shopping opportunities.

“While grocery store shopping will always be grocery store shopping,” said Orrico, “the uniqueness of this project will facilitate more cross-shopping than you would traditionally get out of a project.” Rather than placing the supermarket at one end and the apparel at the other, the development is vertically designed. “Shoppers will be able to cross-shop and not have to continually move their cars.”

Two levels of parking to the north will directly access Lord & Taylor and the 50,000 sq. ft. of added retail. On the south, five parking levels will provide grade access to Whole Foods’ front door, as well as access to Lord & Taylor’s first and second floors. Escalators in an outdoor plaza area combine all the floors on the south.

Top Trends in Grocery-Anchored Centers

According to Denis Beaulieu, VP of Boca Raton, Fla.-based Woolbright Development, there is one overall theme in grocery-anchored shopping centers: “To be in tune to consumers’ lifestyles,” he said. The other top trends cited by Beaulieu include:

Going Green. Developers are taking significant steps toward adopting green techniques in shopping center design and construction. Even many of the new anchor grocery stores themselves are green.

Open-air malls. Some enclosed malls have been completely or partially opened up during the redevelopment phase. Today’s consumers want to park close to the store, make their purchase and not have to walk past another 30 stores to get back to their cars, particularly in grocery-anchored centers.

Freestanding buildings. Having freestanding buildings as part of a grocery-anchored shopping center reflects the consumer’s desire to have everything they need in one place, reminiscent of the “village” experience.

Restaurant variety. Today’s consumer is cooking at home less, so consumers want to shop for part of the day and then have various restaurant options, from QSR to upscale, for a complete lifestyle experience in one location.

“Mom and Pop shops” still have a place in the mix. As grocery store anchors get bigger, it’s appealing to have small “mom and pop shops” in these centers as well. The attraction is that these stores have a true local flavor, and offer a level of service that is often perceived as unattainable by the large chains.

The plaza area brings a lifestyle element to the project, expected from today’s premier developments. “We’re incorporating a lot of green standards,” said Orrico. The green building practices started from a need to increase energy efficiency in the redevelopment, but escalated as additional sustainable possibilities emerged. “We are going to incorporate as many green standards as we can into the mechanical systems, lighting and roofing materials,” explained Orrico.

It’s possible that future NRDC redevelopments could involve other Lord & Taylor stores—NRDC bought the Stamford property from the retailer—but none have yet been solidified. For now, Lord & Taylor is perfectly happy with the direction this current project is taking.

“We are excited to be a part of such an impressive new shopping destination,” said Jane Elfers, president and CEO of Lord & Taylor. “By providing the highest level of service as well as new vendors and facilities in our prototype store at this location, we reinforce our strong commitment to our local customers.”