REAL ESTATE

For scouting new locations, is it digital maps or paper maps?

BY Al Urbanski

Over the past few years, myriad digital mapping, geo-fencing, and data collection companies have offered tech-powered services to help retailers find and plan new locations.

But Tri-Land Properties, a 40-year-old company that has proven itself adept at turning around centers in promising areas, hasn’t thrown out its paper maps. At the RECon retail real estate show in Las Vegas this year, Tri-Land founder Richard Dube (above) recalled to us how he combined his background in the grocery business with an analog mapping scheme to find prime locations that could be revived with redevelopment and a supermarket anchor.

“We cut Chicago into 22,000 units made up of quarter-mile cells. Using this method, we weren’t limited by current neighborhood definitions and could identify our own local trade areas by combining contiguous cells,” Dube said.

Tri-Land did well with the system. It has completed $481 million in redevelopment, both inside and outside of Illinois, with properties ranging in size from70,000 sq. ft. to 600,000 sq. ft.

“At Tri-land, we believe in the power of the paper map. We have had entire offices, rooms and even vacant retail space dedicated to paper maps,” said VP of business development RJ Johnson.

In a blog on the company’s website, Johnson elaborated on the paper map’s advantages over the Google version. Pointing out that experts make a distinction between surface knowledge and deep knowledge, he held that digital interfaces specialize in the surface variety, answering fact-based questions like, “How do I get from the airport to my hotel?

But, wrote Johnson, “If you want to travel meaningfully, deep knowledge of the geography will help you to navigate it and to understand its culture and history. Reading in print makes it easier for the brain to encode knowledge and to remember things. The physical act of moving your arm and feeling the paper under your finger gives your brain haptic and sensorimotor cues that contribute to the formation and retention of the cognitive map.”

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