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The Evolution of Entertainment

National Retail

Entertainment's been a part of retail for decades. But customers' ideas of fun are always changing. (Remember when all anyone wanted to do was rollerblade?) For malls, it historically meant everything from theaters to playing around in the Apple Store to a cooking lesson at Williams-Sonoma, Chicago-based Bucksbaum Retail Properties CEO John Bucksbaum, above, tells us. Now, critical entertainment tenants at his firm’s 1M SF New City Project (a mixed-use JV with Structured Development and JPMorgan Asset Management) include ArcLight Cinemas, Kings Bowl, Mariano’s (Chicago’s hottest grocer), and Dick’s (a sporting goods experience complete with indoor track and pick-up basketball). The key is finding first-to-market tenants, like unique dining options, paired with active public space for farmers markets, concerts, etc. to promote foot traffic, says Structured Development founding principal Mike Drew.


Houston’s West Oaks Mall has also ramped up entertainment, with a focus on necessity and convenience. Pacific Retail SVP of asset management Gary Karl says his firm purchased the 30-year-old property in 2010 and has since backfilled vacant big box space with a cinema, a technical college, a community arts center, an insurance enrollment center, and a live music/dancing bar. The result: Sales increased $75/SF. Gary tells us the goal is to bring in tenants that are destinations themselves. CBRE SVP Matt Keener says Hickory Hollow in Nashville was sitting empty, so the City got municipal funds to build a hockey/skating rink on the parking lot, which'll drive destination traffic to the site and make it more attractive to retailers. (It also makes it a terrible place to practice parallel parking.)


One tenant keeping shoppers well past their lunch hour: the gaming café. Chicago's Blackhawk Restaurant Group is shooting for 100 Illinois locations by 2016, focusing on 1,500 SF sites within food-anchored suburban shopping centers, their rep and NAI Hiffman SVP Mike Meksto (left, with Cornerstone's Spero Adamis and Victor Construction's Jeff Schuttler) tells us. The vibe: a convenient, homey place where people can enjoy light eats, a drink, and some gaming machines while running other errands. The reception from landlords has been overwhelmingly positive, Mike says; the high-end build-outs improve the quality of the property and blend in well with retailers nearby. (As we’ve always said, the community that plays video poker together also buys groceries and clothes for the whole family together.)