I just attended a CREW presentation which was entitled “New Retail Trends and Addressing Consumer Demands.” However, the presentation was actually about three high profile retail projects all located in Cincinnati, Ohio, and, it included three high profile developers, at least one of whom (depending upon who you asked) is also extremely talented.
Mark Fallon of Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate, discussed the continuing expansion of Rookwood. Mark explained how Rookwood was the antithesis of all the other retail developments in and around Cincinnati and joked that other than Kenwood, Rookwood is the only one really worth going to. I never realized how thoughtful the merchandising was and how mixed the use is until I saw his graphic presentation of the project. I also came to the realization that it’s a good idea to be nice to Mark because he is involved somehow in every significant restaurant or retail deal in Cincinnati.
David Birdsall, head of PECO Real Estate Partners, discussed the new Kenwood Collection. Besides wearing a really swanky suit, David explained that the office space was fully leased and retail would be open by Christmas 2016-remarkable progress given the history of this project. David also explained they are designing a huge urban park as public space in the project. Including open public spaces seems to be a new trend in retail developments.
Justin Leyda of Steiner + Associates discussed the new Liberty Center which opened in October. Justin said he first started working on this project in 2008. He commented their whole program is to create an experience and sense of place for the consumer to provide an alternative to online shopping. So Liberty Center also has large public spaces, including a chapel that doubles as a yoga studio, a twirling garden walk way, and lots of parks. They also program public events like the upcoming Holiday tree lighting spectacular. Justin looks young enough to be in high school – think Doogie Houser – but his skills belie his youthful appearance.
One interesting part of the presentation was their discussion of the significant challenges they have faced. David Birdsall talked about how they signed an LOI with Saks, but then Saks got sold and decided not to go forward. The Landlord had to redesign the whole project and find new tenants. Mark Fallon had a similar story where they designed the building for a cinema and then decided it did not make sense to go forward with that use, and had to re-fit the building. (Mark said his office is now in Cinema 2.) Justin Leyda talked about the cynicism he faced in building a multi-million square feet mixed use center in what was essentially a corn field.
The common thread for these three talented men is the secret to success for us all. Each of these guys is tremendously creative and hard-working and refuses to take no for an answer. It is never “if.” It is always “how.”
In terms of adding to the quality of life in Cincinnati, all of these projects are wildly successful. There are new restaurants, stores, offices, apartments and public spaces – all nationally recognized and all in Cincinnati. And I haven’t even started talking about downtown Cincinnati with The Banks and Over the Rhine.