Enhanced customer experience has become a paramount consideration in all types of retail centers, and that’s how Regency Centers approached its planning of a new outdoor center in the Chicago suburb of Vernon Hills back in 2015.
“There was a growing population in Vernon Hills. It had just been named one of the best towns in the U.S. to live in,” said Regency’s VP of property operations Peggy McDermott. “Our thought was to bring the city to the suburbs. Create a place with urban walkability and urban architectural styles. In so many of these centers, people park next to one store and then drive to another.”
The tenant roster at what became known as Mellody Farm (after the nearby Hawthorn Mellody dairy) assumed an urban visage, as well: Whole Foods, Nordstrom Rack, REI, Athleta, and West Elm, among others.
Non-uniformity was the tone Regency seized upon for the grounds. There are children’s play areas and a fire pit where adults can hang out. Sidewalks are wider than one would expect in such a center; colorful benches dot the walkways and invite photos. And the grounds regularly host art exhibitions: Kelsey Montague’s wing murals on glass was one recent placement.
Mellody Farms runs a schedule of seasonal events such as the “Hello Summer” luxury picnic featuring 21 local VIPs and (pre-COVID) the “Meet Me at Mellody Farm” series of 30 festivities that included movie nights, campfire sessions, and a Halloween celebration.
Regency molded its plans for Mellody Farm using careful research.
“Back in 2015, our market research team studied migration patterns and formed some pretty good assumptions about which neighborhoods we’d draw customers from,” said Regency’s marketing VP Jan Hanak. “We engaged with them right from the start and asked them what they’d like to see in the center. And we gave it to them.”
Stay tuned for the profile of the last center in our list. Until then, catch up on what you missed: