By Anthony Sanchez Design Director | Principal at Nadel Architects
Inflation, rising interest rates, and delayed lead-times of building materials have given real estate developers cause to rethink the financial implications of their endeavors and created uncertainty within the retail industry as we move into 2023.
On the other hand, consumers are buying, retailers are paying rent, and we have yet to see any signs of a major slowdown or hesitation to move forward on these types of projects. It seems as though the impact of Covid over the last few years has galvanized the retail environment to confidently weather a recession. Consumers are less shocked by what would normally feel outrageous or unjustifiable and have become jaded by the experiences the pandemic brought upon them. For the brands that flourished during the pandemic, they have proven there is a path forward in even the most challenging of times.
The pent-up need for “experience,” something you cannot get online, has given brands, operators, and owners a common goal of attracting consumers to stay competitive in the market. Whether it’s an emphasis on amenities provided in a multi-family development, or experiential shopping in retail centers, the sense of “place” and community is fundamentally something we all seek for fulfillment.
As the needs of consumers have evolved over the years, so have the expectations around convenience and quality.
Simultaneously, the deficit of housing and need to densify has put a spotlight on pure retail developments as the new frontier for blended use offerings. Industry leaders are more comfortable now than ever to explore how these sites can be adapted to accommodate a more diverse offering.
The Retail/Mixed-Use Benefits
Activation + Exposure
The diversity of programming within a given site will attract a larger cross-section of users. However, the most successful mixed-use projects are those that curate relationships and build synergies between the uses. An example of this can be seen with Rise Koreatown in Los Angeles designed by Nadel Architects. This project includes 364 units above a grocery, dining, and various other retailers at ground level. The retail functions as an amenity to the residential tenants and as the anchor to draw traffic to the property. In any mixed-use environment, the daily users (residential or office) of above ground-level retail are not likely to sustain the businesses below but provide continuous activation and cross-traffic.
Accessibility + Convenience
In the past we have seen hesitation amongst tenants that are traditionally in neighborhood centers to move into dense mixed-use environments, a mindset which has shifted in recent years. This is where creative planning and design help mitigate the concerns tenants may have. The approach is different in a dense vertical mixed-use environment and there are some trade-offs. For instance, sight lines and parking in an open-air center are very straight froward. You can see where you want to go and where you need to park. Whereas in a vertical mixed-use project, effective wayfinding is crucial to the shopper experience. In many cases parking is closer, being consolidated and stacked directly above or below the tenants. For sight lines, larger storefronts with more visibility into the tenant space function as a form of signage providing a direct visual connection to the products and activation.
This concentration of uses is far more convenient and efficient for shoppers and provides opportunities for more experiential moments throughout the common areas of the project.
Sense of Place and Community
The mindset within the retail environment is hyper-focused on creating the most memorable experience for shoppers to ensure extended dwell times, repeat visits, and word-of-mouth buzz. Multi-family and office developments are no different.
With a common objective for delivering quality to its consumers, mixed-use environments that exploit these offerings are building a meaningful sense of place and community for users.
Increasingly, people are looking to have amenities that prioritize inclusivity, community, and health & wellness.
In both retail and multifamily, the “common area” offerings are a selling point to attract tenants. Together as one vision, the advantages retailers gain from operating in mixed-use environments are significant.
Saved time and convenience by way of thoughtful planning creates an environment where retailers, residents, and visitors can thrive. Amenities that meet a variety of needs that mix leisure with everyday life, resonate with the people that use them as a memorable and positive shopping experience. This is the true value of a mixed-use environment.
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Design Director | Principal at Nadel Architects
Anthony Sanchez serves as Nadel’s Design Director, overseeing the collaborative design team for the firm’s retail and mixed-use projects. He is responsible for guiding the design direction from initial concept to the final product, offering creative solutions to ensure each vision is brought to fruition for our clients. With nearly two decades of experience, Anthony is immensely skilled in architectural design and comprehensive urban planning. Prior to joining Nadel, Anthony has held a variety of notable positions including Senior Project Designer at Unibail Rodamco Westfield (URW) where he led the design for the exterior of the iconic Century City Mall. He also spearheaded in-depth repositioning and concept design for various other larger-scale mixed-use projects within the US.