Fig 1: This graphic illustrates the spending habits of 12 Tapestry Lifemode profiles within a 10 or 15 minute drivetime of East Greenwich, RI. Graphic courtesy of EDENS.
There is nothing worse than unleased space in a shopping center, for the developer, tenants, and the community. Empty space translates into economic despair. EDENS is a privately held owner and developer of shopping centers on the East Coast of the United States that takes a long-term view on building community, successful leasing criteria, and meeting the retail needs of the community. For EDENS, a healthy acquisition, development, redevelopment, and leasing strategy depends on easy access to quality retail market data. Most importantly, that data becomes easy to access when it is referenceable by location. EDENS has created a location-based leasing tool that is accessible on the iPad to provide leasing agents with all the information they need in the field to close a deal at their fingertips.
LBx: Tell us about EDENS. You develop community-oriented shopping centers. What does that mean?
Beitz: We develop shopping centers where the focus is on a retail mix that complements the demographics around the trading areas. We have 125 shopping centers on the East Coast. We develop new properties from the ground up, and redevelop existing shopping centers. Once we have acquired and developed properties, our mission is to keep those existing properties leased. The key to keeping properties leased is understanding the changes in any particular trade area, so we focus on getting retailers into shopping centers where they are going to be successful.
LBx: What issues need to be addressed to make sure the retailers are successful?
Beitz: There are three things that are critical to success:
1. Picking the right location:
We need to be as informed as possible around the location. For example, to determine if the location would be a good fit for a Whole Foods store, we compare demographics of a target site to the demographics of 5 or 6 other locations nearby. Using GIS, we are able to show the incomes and population density of the market through thematic maps. Our objective is to purchase or develop a shopping center that is in an area of high population and high incomes, because thatís what often drives success for our retailers. This deeper analysis is competitive advantage for everyone involved.
2. Understanding the site for development or re-development:
We need the ability to present multiple scenarios or a variety of sites in the market to potential retailers. As a developer, we will present 5 to 6 sites to retailers to determine the best site to choose and to attract different retailers to the site.
3. Understanding the community:
Once the site has been developed, the goal is a fully leased shopping center. Changes in the market area are incorporated. This is critical to success, and the information we collect researching the site morphs into marketing materials to get retailers interested in the space.
LBx: What do you mean by GIS?
Beitz: GIS is a big category that includes computer mapping and demographics, any spatial data that can work into that system, including aerial imagery, demographic data, competitive market data, sourcing other location-based data such as traffic counts, active residential developments, and field investigation comments that enter our Marketplace database.
David Beitz, GIS Director EDENS
LBx: What trends or factors are driving the leasing process?
Beitz: The big challenge is the motivation of various leasing agents. Some leasing agentsí goals are just to fill space without concern for the long-term success of the retailer or the shopping center. But our goal is to get the right retail mix for long-term viability and success. In todayís economic climate in particular, you need to be more hypersensitive to the retail mix.
If developers and property managers are only looking at the financials, then they donít really care. But if you care about long term then you have to look at the spectrum of motivations for filling space. For example, you donít want to overlap similar use even if you have two willing tenants. You donít want retailers that directly compete against each other, so for example you wouldnít want to put two fine dining Italian experiences in the same center.
As a privately held company, we are not governed by quarter-to-quarter results. We have the corporate structure that supports a dedication to long-term thinking, to design, sustainability, and community building.
LBx: What determines the financial health of a shopping center?
Beitz: The financial health of a shopping center is usually determined by the quality and term of the leases, as well as the demographics within a 3-mile radius of the shopping center. You want high household income and dense population around your site. EDENS is very competitive when it comes to density and income within the 3-mile radius.
We use location information to connect the invisible dots that build value. Our staff and investment team ask us a lot of spatially challenging questions, such as, how do our sites compare to Apple retail sites? Anytime we do an acquisition, our investment folks want to see competition within a 3-mile radius of the site we are considering ñ show 5 or 6 centers nearby, traffic counts nearby, new roads, subdivisions, and growth rates. The mapping component answers lots of different questions in one view.
LBx: You are rolling out a new location-based sales tool called iMap which will be accessible on an iPad. Tell us about that.
Beitz: Weíve been working on it for about 2 years. We needed a system to push out the location information to non-GIS users, in particular to leasing agents out in the market. We originally thought of a desktop application and switched to the iPad because of the importance of enabling leasing agents in the field to access demographic, retailer, thematic map, and other internal information.
We designed an application that allows a leasing person to follow a lot of different workflows including moving between property locations, zooming in to the site level, and integrating CAD files and color coding site plans. We also built in an automated marketing kit that always pulls in the latest information on demographics, the site plan with rent roll, pictures, and a competition aerial into a pdf that can be emailed from the field.
LBx: Tell us about your Marketplace database, and the impact that the data required had on your choice of applications to use.
Beitz: We've been using GIS for 13 years, and our focus was on turning out maps and analysis, and building demographic databases that feed the website and internal systems. The staff was asking spatially challenging questions that we couldnít answer without access to our Marketplace database, which was managed by IT. Like many other companies, we are no different, the IT department and the GIS department were siloíd.
We have an in-house database of...
Full article available in LBx Journal Winter 2012 digital edition.