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Above: Ralph Conti of Ra Co Real Estate Advisors, left, and Ryan Rivera of Hartman Simons after last night's ICSC Next Generation panel discussion on mixed-use retail.

Urban, mixed-use retail development was the subject of a
comprehensive one-hour panel discussion featuring Hartman Simons’ Ryan Rivera
that was held at Emory University last night. The discussion was
part of the International
Council of Shopping Centers’ (ICSC) Next Generation
series of workshops;
these events are designed to give younger retail real estate professionals the
opportunity to network and learn more about the sector.

Ralph Conti of Ra Co Real Estate
Advisors served as moderator. Other panelists included Mike Cohn of Cousins
Properties, Kristen Morris of Jamestown Properties and Ron Pfohl of North
American Properties (NAP).

In this edition of Four on Friday, we
present four of the many topics the panelists discussed during the wide-ranging
hour.

1)
A Shift in Attitude.

Simply put, mixed-use properties in urban areas are becoming
more prevalent because consumers, tired of long commutes to and from the
suburbs, want walkable communities that afford them the opportunity to live,
work, shop and play in the same general area, according to the panelists.

“The trend I see since the recession is that people are
looking for something different,” Morris said. “They’re thinking, ‘What I was
doing before is no longer acceptable.’”

2) The Difficulty of
Financing.

Despite their growing popularity, mixed-use properties are
still difficult to finance, in part because at least one of the property types
included is bound to be in one of its non-peak cycles, the panelists noted.

Cousins Properties found that lenders imposed significant
pre-leasing requirements for funding related to the retail component of Emory
Point, a mixed-use property in Atlanta that Cousins developed in conjunction
with Gables Residential; the property also includes apartments.

“Financing these properties is still an art,” Cohn said.

Furthermore, lenders are scrutinizing lease agreements much
more closely than ever before, Rivera noted. “It’s much more cumbersome than it’s
ever been,” he said.

3) Social Media.

Embracing social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter
is a must for today’s retailer, the panelists agreed. NAP’s Atlantic Station in
Midtown Atlanta has targeted Generation Y and has aggressively used social
media to engage that demographic and draw foot traffic to the property, Pfohl
noted. “We don’t spend a single dime on traditional media,” he added.

NAP has even used feedback from its online communities to make
decisions about what tenants it should pursue and sign, Pfohl said.

4) Creating an
Experience.

Considering the convenience afforded to consumers by online
shopping, retail centers must give shoppers a reason to come to their
properties. Pfohl said NAP has held more than 200 events – such as concerts and
food-truck days – at Atlantic Station. “You’ve got to create a great experience
for people,” he said.

“You have to bring people to your property for reasons other
than just shopping,” Morris added. “It’s about building community.”