Pennsylvania — Mid Atlantic Real Estate Journal

By: Bill Coan, ITEC Entertainment Corporation

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Mixed-use projects that blend residential, commercial, office and/or entertainment into a single cohesive property design are becoming more common in the U.S. This type of development, which ranges from individual structures through entire neighborhoods, is fostering a contemporary, highly competitive real estate sub-market and new retail trend in the Mid-Atlantic region.

For instance, Dollar Tree recently unveiled its $300 million urban mixed-use project in Chesapeake, Virginia, and The Berkleigh, a mixed-use apartment development in Middle River, Maryland, received a $72.6 million loan for construction funding earlier this year.

Mixed-use properties that incorporate office space, retail, and entertainment will be pivotal to the continued growth in the region by catering to Millennial culture and lifestyle. Through these fun and creative environments, cities in the region can successfully draw millennials to live and work, as exemplified by Richmond, VA. Richmond’s Millennial population has nearly doubled since 2010, with its growth is often attributed to a few key factors, including high paying jobs, affordable housing, a thriving entertainment scene and high-profile company offices (e.g. Amazon, Facebook, and Capital One).

To ride on the coattails of Richmond and drive growth in the Mid-Atlantic through mixed-use projects, real estate developers and global multinational corporations should consider the following strategic elements.

Creating Destinations Instead of Locations Developers must go beyond aesthetics to increase the value and marketability of their projects. The best way to create an immersive experience is to look for inspiration in what the theme park and attractions industries have been doing for years now, and bring that sense of wonderment to drive interest for corporate mixed-use facilities as well as profits.

Enhancing a space to an experiential level involves engaging multiple “senses” that commercial RE developers often don’t consider. Conceiving a creative premise or overarching backstory incorporating lighting, sound, display, and even smell into properties can create a destination instead of just a location. By orchestrating these components within the property, developers can enhance emotive experiences and weave subtle storylines into spaces. For example, a new or existing development, that is on or near a historic site, can leverage or repurpose natural structures and features of a location, such as an old mill, notable factory or picturesque waterfall that instantly provides the basis for a clever premise or storyline.

With some creative enhancements, a story can become an elaborate narrative for a rich Guest experience. The story would inspire the direction of the rest of the development including the environmental and facility designs, assist with special event programming, and a selection of key complementary tenants that together improve the market-ability of a destination.

Broadening Target Audiences

Mixed-use facilities open up a wider range of prospective tenants, which incentivize developers to consider larger constituencies. This can include upper management, employees, commercial tenants,suppliers, vendors, neighbors, and a number of other parties. For businesses, these facilities can substantially improve the recruitment process, enabling HR departments to produce an enhanced new-hire experience around the property to differentiate themselves to highly competitive candidates. The need for skilled technical talent is important to modern workforces, and enticing workers beyond the simple amenities packages is crucial.

Rethinking Onsite Touchpoints for Company Stakeholders

Another approach mixed-use developers should adopt from park development is mapping property design through the onsite touchpoints of company stakeholders. Touchpoints, in this case, refer to the step-by-step experience that often unknowingly guides patrons to various locations on a property as intended. Developers
can increase the return on investment psf, and even entice brands to open stores on mixed-use properties with the promise of consistent foot traffic. These tricks of the trade should be more regularly integrated into commercial real estate. For instance, theme park design always includes specific dimensions for pathways, open expanses, shops, and rides that lead guests from one touchpoint to the next, and encourage engagement (and spending) throughout the process. These touchpoint strategies can subtly advance company initiatives. Catering Toward the Live, Work and Play Mentality For the Mid-Atlantic, mixed-use developers should research what residents and millennials who are moving to these areas are looking for in terms of living and working conditions, and how to best enhance communities for them. According to a Smart-Asset analysis, which tracked Census Bureau data, found Western, Southwestern and Mid-Atlantic cities were the majority of the top 25 cities
millenials were relocating to. Even Delaware, a state that was previously known for ushering in baby boomers and losing millennials to surrounding states, is moving
toward mixed-use development to drive change. Earlier this year, the state revealed 10 new downtown commercial, resident and mixed-use developments with $4.3 million in approved grants.

Through mixed-use property development, the Mid-Atlantic region can build off of the momentum established by D.C. and Virginia to bring even more Millennials and job growth. More and more people want to live in Mid-Atlantic cities, and the properties and entertainment that best encapsulate this demographic will be the ones that prevail.

Bill Coan is president and CEO at ITEC Entertainment Corporation.

LOAD-DATE: August 13, 2018

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