As part three of our ongoing coverage of RECon, the annual retail real estate convention conducted by the International Council of Shopping Centers and held May 22-25 in Las Vegas, Chain Store Age talked with Joe Boehm, senior VP, retail leasing, of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, regarding his impressions of RECon 2011 and what Forest City projects garnered the most attention at the show.
What impression of the state of the industry were you left with by the end of RECon 2011?
After Recon 2011, it felt like there was more stability in the industry than in the previous few years. While there is certainly still caution relative to market conditions, there seems to be a feeling that things have bottomed. It feels like we are headed in the right direction, although growth and improvement may be slow and come over time.
What Forest City projects received the greatest interest during the show?
Westchester’s Ridge Hill, a 1.3-million-sq.-ft. open-air retail and entertainment center [in Yonkers, N.Y.], generated the strongest interest since it is one of the few new developments under way in the country and there have been significant enhancements in terms of tenant mix and momentum. Lord & Taylor will anchor the center. Cutting-edge clothiers H&M, Desigual, Republic of Couture, Gap, and Old Navy, and cookware retailer Sur La Table are the six newest tenants to be added to the lineup, which also includes Whole Foods, L.L. Bean, Showcase Cinema De Lux, Dick’s Sporting Goods and REI.
Were your dealmakers actually making deals at RECon?
At this point, our dealmakers believe there was more sincere interest and deal potential at this convention than over the past few years. How many deals will actually be made will become more clear over the course of the next six months. However, we have much more optimism than we have had in recent years that these were concrete deals that will be completed.
What are your priorities as a company for the rest of 2011?
We are focused on continuing to protect and enhance our balance sheet, which means improving liquidity and enhancing the mix of our shopping center portfolio. With select properties in particular, we’re looking to enhance our portfolio with the flight-to-quality theme that is pervasive throughout the retail community.