Diane Cullinan instilled in her company a level of pride in completion and commitment that requires listening to all the important groups that have a stake in a project. It takes time. It takes abandoning some traditional ideas and understanding future trends. It gets you to a point at which all parties say, “Great. We have a 2 million square-foot project with retail, restaurants, multi-family residential, office, and medical …wouldn’t this be a cool place to live?”
The challenge that the pandemic has presented to both real estate developers and retailers is to form these same kinds of lasting partnerships. To sit down at a table with the third-party consumer being top of mind and to continue to discuss and negotiate how to envision and construct a project that will keep that consumer coming back for years and years. Our projects are intended to be a long-lasting part of the fabric of a community and ones that all can be proud of.
The pandemic has taught all of us—towns, developers, investors, and tenants—that we need to become lean, efficient, and collaborative. The time has come for us to engage in hyper-personalization. Not to look at a new tenant at a signing and say, “Hey, that’s a good deal for us today as it meets our parameters,” but to look at a tenant throughout their stay on our property and ask, “How is this tenant doing? How are they handling omnichannel issues?” Our job is not simply to collect rent, but to help tenants prosper as valuable pieces of a larger puzzle.
When retailers expand into new markets, they often tell their prospective landlords that they want to enter the property on terms that they’re confident will bring them success. Since the pandemic has been in place, retailers’ reliance on and adherence to proven models of their tenancy in centers has become much more important to them in deciding which deals to sign. They are taking longer looks at site plans, co-tenancy, development details, and demographics than ever before. So when retailers and their broker consultants ask for more detailed information or special considerations, we’re doing our best to say yes a lot more than no.
In the old days, the pendulum of leverage swung between the landlord and the retailer and, more often than not, landed on the side of the landlord. Today, however, with a finite number of great opportunities and a fewer number of expanding concepts, our belief is that the pendulum needs to land in the middle.