Brokers + Engineers launches at New York Show
Camille Renshaw says she coded her way through college and sold her first tech startup when she was still in her 20s. Ending up in real estate some years later, she found herself in a data vacuum.
“If a McDonald’s or a Walgreen’s wanted to put a store on a certain corner in a certain town, all they could do was call three brokers they knew to try to find out what the right price was,” recalls Renshaw, who was the founding broker of Stan Johnson Company’s office in New York.
This week at the ICSC Show in New York, Renshaw brought her two careers full circle, announcing the launch of Brokers + Engineers, a concern she describes as the first tech-driven brokerage firm and trading platform for net lease real estate.
Renshaw notes that the triple-net, or NNN, real estate market is estimated to have a total value of $6.5 trillion, with an average annual sales volume of $55 billion via roughly 11,000 transactions.
“Brokers come first and foremost. Senior people and their relationships are crucial to our transactions,” she says. “But it’s the engineers’ jobs to empower the brokers. We are building the largest data set in the industry and using predictive analytics to create a pricing regression algorithm to help clients price properties intelligently.”
Brokers + Engineers has offices in New York and Tampa.
Tenants and landlords disagree on mall priorities
Think the road ahead is clear for malls and shopping centers needing to win over web shoppers and millennials? Think again.
FTI Consulting and Oxford Economics surveyed 90 retailers and 30 center owners and REIT principals and found them miles apart on the answers to such issues as mall traffic, new center design, and changing demographics.
Nine out of 10 property owners put the onus on retailers’ to build new stores to improve sales. Only six of 10 retailers agree. At the same time, 63% of tenants see competitive pricing and promotion affecting their receipts, while just 17% of landlords see that as the problem.
While scores of books and countless articles have been written about the affect digitally-savvy millennials are having on the future of brick-and-mortar retail, owners and renters are far apart on the depth of their influence. Only four of 10 retailers see demographics as having a large impact on register rings, compared to 7 out of 10 mall and center owners.
That discrepancy in evaluation appears to go hand-in-hand with this one: 60% of landlords think customers are shopping less often in stores while only 37% of retailers do.
“Our research suggests that many retailers are in denial about deep and pervasive shifts in consumer trends affecting the state of the industry,” said Christa Hart, a senior managing director at FTI Consulting.
Retailers surveyed had either regional or corporate-level decision-making authority about their company’s real estate and leasing decisions.
Density is the Northeast’s retail calling card
The Northeast market has always had lots of what both retailers and retail center developers want — density — and the most densely populated region of the country continues to pack them in. Boston added more than 55,000 jobs in the past year, and high-paying ones at that. Median household income there is $85,000. New York City neighborhoods continue adding residential high-rises and rezoning street-fronts for the retail sure to follow. Average retail sales per month in Gotham top $7,000. The population has risen by more than a quarter-million in Washington D.C. and median household incomes approach six figures.
Retail is being re-born in Center City Philadelphia, where PREIT and Macerich are remaking the former Gallery at Market East into Fashion District Philadelphia, a mix of outlet stores and new food and beverage options. And the closely-packed urban character of the Northeast aids PREITs ongoing effort to fill empty department store spaces at malls in prime locations.
PREIT will open six replacement retailers in vacant anchor space this year. At PREIT’S 768,000-sq.-ft. Viewmont Mall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, for instance, a former Sears box was recently re-fitted with a 90,000-sq.-ft. Dick’s/Field & Stream combo-store and a 23,000-sq.-ft. HomeGoods.
“In-demand retailers from the hot off-price segment, such as Burlington and TJX Brands, are backfilling former department stores and driving more traffic and sales than their more traditional predecessors,” said PREIT CEO Joe Coradino. “Demand for quality mall space is robust from brands that understand and embrace the idea that unique experiences are the key for long-term success.”
The tenant mix is changing at successful, secondary-market malls, too, such as DLC’s quarter-million-sq.-ft. Mid Valley Mall in Newburgh, New York. Catering to consumers’ more exacting food and beverage demands, DLC partnered with the Price Chopper on an $8 million renovation of the supermarket chain’s 74,000-sq.-ft. location there. The new concept, called Market 32, presents a quality food-focused approach using contemporary displays and design.
“There are a lot more options for open-air operators now. There’s less of a traffic gap versus traditional malls,” said DLC CEO Adam Ifshin. One area DLC is focusing on is upgrading its quick-service food options, Ifshin said. The developer recently initiated a relationship with Firehouse Subs to deliver something new to long-time customers.
Jeff Edison, CEO of Phillips Edison, operator of some 30 grocery-anchored centers in the Northeast, says that adapting to local market tastes is something he’s been dealing with since he started his company more than 25 years ago.
“The business has not changed much, though one area where we see a lot of change is in prepared foods,” Edison said. “People are buying meals out of the home more. It becomes a necessity to have a Subway store in a center.”
Buying patterns also shift for grocery-anchored centers during economic downturns, he noted. “In a recession, Whole Foods shoppers will go to Kroger.”
But even in the Northeast, one finds growth markets. In Gaithersburg, Maryland, a northern suburb of Washington, D.C., RPAI took advantage of a boom in affluent residents with Downtown Crown. Its name describes exactly what it is – a town center built in and around the Crown residential development, where townhomes start in the $700,000 range.
“In downtown Washington, you can’t add any more GLA. It’s all built out and you can’t go vertical because you’re limited to 13 stories, so you have to go to the suburbs,” said Greg Goldberg, VP of leasing for RPAI’s Eastern Division.
D.C. has some of the largest and most affluent suburban districts in the country and Gaithersburg, home to the FDA and attendant biotech and healthcare corporations, is one. The retail at Downtown Crown consists of two elements—a town center with necessity retail such as a bank and a Starbucks complemented by a lifestyle center with bar and dining options the likes of Old Town Pour House, and the Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar.
It could be argued that the first mixed-use developments rose up in the Northeast. Parkchester, a planned community of 43,000 people erected in the East Bronx in 1940, was acquired some 10 years ago by Olshan Properties, which has tirelessly kept its retail experience in line with times. The longstanding Macy’s is now joined by Blink Fitness, The Children’s Place, and New York & Co.
“Parkchester is an excellent example of a thriving mixed-use environment,” observed Ken Marshall, Olshan’s head of retail at Olshan Properties. “The 500,000 sq. ft. of retail space complements and supports the 12,000 residential units and offices. Parkchester is a city within the city.”
The bottom line: Density has long driven retail innovation in the Northeast, and it will continue to do so and inspire retail developers nationwide.