October 21, 2009

Retail Magnetism

The best urban shopping districts run circles around other cities. That's because retail success is defined both by where it is and who it attracts from other areas.

Kansas City Power and Light District, which draws 28% of its patrons from more than 100 miles away, is one example of retail magnetism. New Jersey's Atlantic City Outlets: The Walk pulls even more of its patrons, an impressive 35%, from distances beyond 100 miles. What entices shoppers to come from near and far is a critical mass of retail and entertainment opportunities that creates a richness and diverse variety seldom replicated in a single setting.

Blake Cordish, VP of Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, owner and developer of both the Power and Light District and The Walk, explained the driving objective for the Kansas City revitalization was to combine a series of ticketed attractions, unique to that area, with an expansive selection of shopping and dining venues.

In addition to its 18,000-seat arena, the Power and Light District hosts a number of smaller venues including a 3,000 capacity live performance venue and a repertoire theatre with seating for 600; a 1,000-person capacity live-music hall; and a movie theater with 1,800 seats.

"When people attend special events, they want to be able to extend the experience," Cordish noted. "The Power and Light District gives visitors nine city blocks of retail and entertainment choices where they can celebrate before and after events."

Similarly, Atlantic City welcomes some 39 million visitors annually to its convention center, casinos and beach — yet shopping and entertainment options did not exist prior to The Walk.

Enter The Cordish Companies, with its redesign of 12 city blocks that has introduced more than 600,000 sq. ft. of upscale branded outlets and sit-down restaurants, with another 300,000 sq. ft. in the works.

The Walk is ideally positioned in its market, literally lining the boulevard that is traveled by every visitor driving into or out of the Atlantic City peninsula.

Before The Walk was developed, the area was uninviting — a veritable "no-man's land," described Cordish.

Populating the street with the world's finest retail brands has successfully linked the convention center, casinos and beach with a compelling pedestrian option. Not only has it proved to be popular with the millions of people who come for business, gambling or beach time, but The Walk also has become an appealing shopping destination in and of itself.

There are a number of ways to measure the success of both the Kansas City and Atlantic City developments.

Sales, which increased in 2008 and are continuing to show increases this year, are one of the most obvious indicators — but Cordish points to the rise of spin-off residential and hospitality developments surrounding both districts as even clearer testaments to the overall value propositions.

Momentum is another clear barometer of success — and both districts are expanding more rapidly than originally envisioned. The next phase of Atlantic City's Walk will open in 2010, and Kansas City's Power and Light District, already topping 600,000 sq. ft. of finished space, will break ground early next year on a phase slated to open in the fall of 2011.

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