In Fall 2001, Steiner + Associates and Georgetown Co. completed the second phase of mixed-use trendsetter Easton Town Center, Columbus, Ohio -- and a decade later, the 1.7-million-sq.-ft. development stands as testament that the right project in the right location with the right uses can survive even the most trying economic conditions.
Chain Store Age talked with Yaromir Steiner, CEO of Columbus-based Steiner + Associates, about Easton’s staying power during a recession, and its continued evolution as it strives to remain relevant.
The much-heralded Easton Town Center turns 10 this year, clearly standing the test of time despite difficult conditions over the last few years. To what do you attribute the center’s resilience?
In the case of most strong projects, the success is driven largely by owners who are willing to continue investing capital toward maintaining and strengthening the asset. We have kept Easton in tune with the market, and current in terms of merchandising, amenities and tenants. We are continually investing and upgrading, bringing in relevant tenants.
Also, we have made sure the product and the experience are responsive to the aspirations of the customers. Shopping used to be solely about consumption, but now it has transcended that to being more about experience. In other words, it’s not just about purchasing the blouse, but about the environment in which you purchased the blouse. Had we just concentrated on the delivery of merchandise at Easton, we wouldn’t have been nearly as successful.
Third, and it may be a piece of the second point, is the strength of the leisure component. Easton features more than 200,000 sq. ft. of leisure uses; half of that is the AMC Theatres cinema, which is the largest in the state, and the rest are the restaurant and bar uses. The leisure use complements the other retail in the project. We aren’t talking about outlots, but about uses that are integrated into the fabric of the center.
There have to have been lessons learned since the center’s beginnings. What are a few of the more significant?
We’ve learned many, many lessons. I wish we had done more integrated residential and of