Retail-only projects aren’t getting a lot of press these days, if only because most aren’t coming out of the ground. But blending in additional uses has proven a sure-fire way to add some excitement—and salability—to retail-oriented, open-air developments.
Chain Store Age talked with Joseph Coradino, president of Philadelphia-based PREIT Services LLC and Preit-Rubin Inc., about the advantages of incorporating mixed-use into an open-air retail environment, as well as the success PREIT is finding with its Voorhees Town Center project in New Jersey.
Why is mixed-use so positively impacting open-air success?
If you can truly create mixed-use by injecting shop-work-dine-entertain components—and then go even one beyond that by providing some level of service—the result is that there are more reasons to visit a property and then stay there once you arrive.
When you talk about providing some level of service, to what are you referring?
As an example, PREIT is completing a transaction to do a municipal building, a City Hall, at Voorhees Town Center, and the addition will make the property a real town center. When you can truly create the essence of a downtown—with all of the services and amenities you would expect from a downtown—you make it not a place that people may go, but a place that they need to go.
What uses are finding the greatest success at Voorhees Town Center?
The residential component is really taking off, and its success is partly driven by the market we’re in right now, and part of it is the lifestyle that is offered with the various components. The first residential building is 100% occupied, and the second is about 50% occupied and moving toward full occupancy. We will open the third residential building in mid-March and the fourth by mid-April.
Provide some more specifics about the components.
Voorhees Town Center is a four-pronged project that consists of a right-sized and renovated two-story mall, Abitare Apartment Homes and Residences, offices and a boulevard with Main Street retail, fine dining and mixed-use space. In all, there is about 200,000 sq. ft. of street retail and office, 200,000 sq. ft. of inline mall space, plus about 400,000 sq. ft. of department stores and 425 residential units.
What are some retail names you can share?
The mall portion is anchored by Macy’s and Boscov’s, and we have just opened an upscale Intoxx Fitness center and the Rizzieri Aveda School for Beauty and Wellness, each occupying 15,000 sq. ft. We have signed leases with Coffee Works and a high-end pet store called Doggie Style that are both slated to open in 60 days. We have leases out with several restaurants and are preparing to start construction on the Farmers Market. The restaurants and Farmers Market will open by fourth quarter, in time for the holiday season.
Why is Voorhees Town Center a great example of a successful mixed-use project?
The key is the blend of uses that are complementary to each other. But I can tell you there is no magic bullet; creating a successful mixed-use development involves more complexity than a retail-only project. For example, you don’t build an office building until you have a tenant. But, in residential, people don’t rent apartments until they’re built. You have these pieces that are out of sync with each other and quite unpredictable. For the retail, we have learned that the residential drives the street retail, and to an extent, creating that critical mass drives the office.
All of this adds a great deal of complexity to a project.