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Upcycling: Reimagining Underutilized Commercial Space as Public Space

Originally published by Philip Wilkinson and Teresa Bucco for NAIOP Development Magazine Summer 2021 issue.

A project in Pittsburgh demonstrates the potential of activating common areas in older retail destinations.

For nearly two decades, online shopping has seen steady growth in both traffic and sales, which has forced traditional retailers to think of new ways to draw people into brick-and-mortar stores. In more recent years, shifts toward experiential retail saw many retailers overhauling store designs to give shoppers more hyperlocal, boutique or high-end encounters while encouraging online buying and in-store pickup. 

However, concepts such as Wal-Mart’s Neighborhood Market and Target’s City Target — launched to reach transit-oriented communities and supplement declining sales at traditional big-box locations — were often slow to catch on or showed mixed results, according to a 2019 Mashed article.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the decline of in-person buying. Digital Commerce 360 reports that total online spending in 2020 reached $861 billion, up 44% from 2019, accounting for 21.3% of total retail sales. Adobe’s Digital Economy Index shows that 2020 accelerated the typical year-over-year growth of e-commerce by four to six years. Conversely, sales from brick-and-mortar retailers fell an estimated 14%  to just $4.2 trillion in 2020, according to a June 2020 Insider Intelligence study. Due to the rise of e-commerce and the economic effects of the pandemic, it’s clear that commercial centers must evolve to become more than just shopping destinations.

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Lessons in Mitigating Risk on a Megaproject

Originally published in NAIOP's Development Magazine Spring 2021 Issue by Ann Moore.

Waterfront development in California used multiple strategies to get off the ground.

Megaprojects can transform landscapes, improve quality of life and deliver significant economic benefits to their communities. When they are sited on a waterfront in a binational urban area, they take on even more complexity. In Southern California’s San Diego County, a megaproject will transform a formerly blighted stretch of waterfront into a thriving destination. The project team is pursuing innovative ways to reduce the risk that could be instructive to other development teams. 

A megaproject is defined by its scale and complexity. Typically costing $1 billion or more, such projects take many years to develop and build, involve multiple public and private stakeholders and impact millions of people, according to the Oxford Handbook of Megaproject Management. A considerable upside also brings great risk, which must be managed to improve the chances of success. 

On approximately 535 acres, the Chula Vista Bayfront is larger than Disneyland and one of the last significant large-scale waterfront development opportunities in Southern California. Once defined by a power plant and an aerospace factory, this brownfield waterfront is ripe for redevelopment in the U.S.-Mexico border region of 6.5 million people. The location is about a 15-minute drive from the busiest land border crossing in the western hemisphere. More than 100,000 people cross the San Diego-Tijuana, Mexico, border every day. Thus, the project site can target a market that includes U.S. citizens, Mexican nationals, and travelers using airports in San Diego and Tijuana. 

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A New Life for an Old Department Store

Originally published by Brent Carroll for NAIOP's Spring 2021 Issue.

An adaptive reuse project revitalizes an iconic retail tower in Portland, Oregon.

For residents of a certain age in Portland, Oregon, the phrase “meet me under the clock” meant the clock on the main floor of the Meier & Frank department store, which first opened nearly 150 years ago. The 16-story terracotta landmark building at 555 Southwest Morrison Street encompasses an entire city block near Pioneer Courthouse Square, widely known as “Portland’s living room.”

In November 2016, a new era for the Meier & Frank Building began when KBS purchased the asset for $54 million in a joint venture with private development firm Sterling Bay with the intent of repositioning the property. Converting part of a beloved former department store into a fully leased Class A mixed-use space while preserving the historical integrity of the original property required hard work as well as some creative problem-solving. 

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How Has COVID-19 Accelerated Dining Trends?

Originally published by Gary Tasman on March 30, 2021, for NAIOP.com.

If nothing else, 2020 taught us that we can all adapt to changing conditions and learn how to navigate through radical shifts in how we function day-to-day. This is the case not only for individuals and families but also for businesses. Millions of business owners and managers were forced to radically reinvent their business models to remain solvent during the COVID-19 crisis. This is especially true of the restaurant industry, which is rapidly accelerating new and pre-existing trends.

Stay-at-home regulations, social distancing, and public apprehension have forced restaurants to shift their models significantly to focus on delivery and carry-out to stay profitable. Fortunately for many establishments, this quick-service restaurant trend had already emerged pre-pandemic. Restaurants that had already embraced this shift were better positioned to weather the storm produced by COVID-19.

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Activating Public Spaces Can Attract Users, Create Community

Posted on July 26, 2019

By Angelo Carusi

A Nashville-area mixed-use development illustrates the uplifting potential of landscape architecture.

Mixed-use developers are devoting premium real estate to outdoor public spaces that invite the community to linger. These communal areas are continually being repurposed and reimagined through bold and creative design strategies.

The design for dynamic, open-air gathering spaces can be as important as the design for revenue-generating real estate products. Physical spaces that promote dwell time are increasingly appreciated by tenants and end users. Outdoor “rooms” where people pause to sit with a cup of coffee, watch their children play, respond to emails and texts or enjoy casual conversations are spaces where life, community, architecture and nature come together, allowing for meaningful experiences that encourage people to return to the property.

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Legal Agreements for Mixed-use Projects

Posted on March 6, 2018

By: Paul N. Dubrasich

Anyone considering developing a mixed-use project should be aware of these key legal, design and management considerations.

Mixed-use development projects of all types – including urban infill projects, transit-oriented developments and walkable lifestyle communities – have taken hold in urban centers and suburban areas across North America. Millennial consumers, as well as downsizing retirees, increasingly favor living within walking distance of stores, their favorite cycling and barre classes, restaurants and cultural venues, rather than having to drive to homes at the distant reaches of urban sprawl.

Local governments love mixed-use development for a variety of reasons. They put less pressure on infrastructure cost than more sprawling development, create accessible job opportunities, reduce traffic and help stimulate local commerce. Developers are responding to the evolving demographics and environmental forces driving these types of developments, not just in the urban core, but also in outlying areas, especially on sites close to public transportation.