REAL ESTATE

At the World Trade Center Mall, honoring heroes is an everyday thing

BY Al Urbanski

Outside the Oculus, the skeletal edifice that houses the World Trade Center’s transportation hub, thousands gathered this week to honor American heroes who lost their lives there on 9-11. Inside the Oculus, Westfield’s mall has been honoring America’s military heroes ever since it opened a year ago. Before any store opened its doors, Westfield staged a job fair aimed at enlisting veterans to come to work at Ground Zero.

Bill Hecht

It was two years ago that Bill Hecht decided to jump with both feet into a chain-wide community program for Westfield. The then new COO started with a desire to help veterans and a logical notion: get the community-minded people within the company to get the project going.

“I was keenly interested in doing more to help the veterans,” said Hecht, whose father was a veteran of World War II and the Korean Conflict. “I sent out a note to the company at large to see who else might be interested and I got responses from over 100 people.”

The big mall owner now has 50 employees involved in the Westfield Veterans Initiative (WVI), which provides veterans with one-on-one mentorship opportunities, supports retail entrepreneurship, and drives awareness for issues faced by transitioning service members.

Early on, WVI formed a relationship with The Rosie Network, an organization founded by Navy SEAL spouses to help counteract high unemployment rates among transitioning veterans through entrepreneurship. In July, Westfield Mission Valley in San Diego sponsored a Rosie Network Veteran Business Showcase where 29 veterans and military spouses were allowed to display their wares.

“Thanks to Westfield, our military entrepreneurs have a meaningful way to connect directly with consumers,” said Rosie Network founder Stephanie Brown.

The National Retail Federation and its RISE Up Initiative partnered with WVI at a veteran’s job fair at its Century City mall in June to advise veterans on how to acquire the necessary skills to turn retail jobs into promising careers in the industry.

The Veteran’s Initiative has taken root at Westfield, and Hecht says the experience has been as rewarding for Westfield and its employees as it’s been for veterans.

“One of the most pleasant outcomes of this program has been the involvement of a wide variety of different employees,” he said. “Leaders have emerged from this project who were not among the most senior people in the company.”


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REAL ESTATE

Glimcher named CEO of Starwood

BY Al Urbanski

Michael P. Glimcher, who stepped down as the chief executive of WP Glimcher last year, has been named CEO of Starwood Retail Partners. He succeeds Scott Wolstein, who has taken on a new role as senior adviser to the parent company, Starwood Capital Group.

In the recession of 2008, Glimcher staged a turnaround of Glimcher Realty Trust by reducing the REIT’s debt-to-capitalization ratio by focusing on the acquisition of high-end regional malls. Five years later, its investors reaped an annualized return of 38% compared to and industry average return of 17%.

Washington Prime Group acquired Glimcher in 2015 and pledged to grow the company through increased cash flow and acquisition of more diverse assets. A year later, Glimcher, who had joined the company in 1991 and risen up the leasing department ranks to senior VP, left the company.

"Michael has an intense passion for the retail business… and has a deep understanding of what retailers and shoppers are looking for and how we, as landlords, must adapt,” said Mark Deason, head of U.S. asset management for Starwood.

Wolstein led Starwood Retail Partners from its inception in 2012, building it into a significant industry player with a portfolio of 30 malls and lifestyle centers in the U.S.


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A Kmart closure has Illinois town mulling new opportunity

BY CSA STAFF

Many American communities see the closing of a long-successful department store as a tragedy. Town officials of Oak Lawn, Illinois, see it as an opportunity.

“It is a great location and I think its future…can be very, very bright and strong, and so does the owner of the property,” village manager Larry Deetjen said of the shopping center at 95th Street and Pulaski Road in an interview with the Chicago Tribune.

Sears Holdings announced last month that the Kmart store anchoring the property would be closed, but Oak Lawn’s planning commission tagged the property as prime for redevelopment in 2014. Town planners are considering going vertical with a development combining residential and retail. They have shared a list of interested retailers with Kimco Realty, owner of the site.

Out-parcels such as Chuck E. Cheese’s and LongHorn Steakhouse are successful, say Oak Lawn officials, and they look forward to more of the same in redeveloped property.

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