Up on Main Street

Whether lifestyle centers, hybrid projects, Main Streets, town centers or any or all of the above, open-air developments are quite literally all that is being built in the shopping center genre. And retail tenants that previously couldn’t envision their brands in an outdoor mall setting have since settled in quite comfortably. Specialty “lifestyle” retailers Talbots, Chico’s, Coldwater Creek and Ann Taylor, which led the early charge into upscale open-air centers, now share tenancy with Whole Foods Market, Crate & Barrel, Regal Cinema and L.L.Bean (see sidebar to this story).

L.L. Bean Goes to Town

Some retailers are just meant for lifestyle centers. L.L. Bean is one of them.

As Main Streets and town centers have emerged as the most popular iteration of outdoor lifestyle centers, the Freeport, Maine-based outdoor retailer has taken its new 30,000-sq.-ft. prototype to town, rolling it out in Main Streets and town-center-style centers mostly near its home base.

According to Mary Lou Kelley, VP of real estate for the chain, open-air lifestyle centers are a natural fit. “We are an outdoor lifestyle brand, so we don’t want to be just another inline mall store,” explained Kelley. “It’s not consistent with who we are and what our customers expect from us.” L.L. Bean strives to ease the barriers between inside and out, literally opening its store to the outside. “We have folding glass doors, which we fold up on nice days, so that if, for example, a customer wants to try out a bike, we can give that customer the bike to wheel right out the front of the store for an outdoor test drive,” Kelley said. “It’s about integrating the indoors with the outdoors.”

Main Streets and town centers have not only allowed L.L. Bean to merge inside with outside, but have also been conducive to the retailer’s overriding need to build green. “We will build at least LEED-certified silver and because so many of these outdoor lifestyle centers are new developments, it’s easier to ensure LEED certification and develop the store you need and want,” said Kelley.

The new prototype serves as a design guidepost to the retailer’s rollout, which included three new stores in 2007 and four in the works for 2008. From there, said Kelley, the company will target about eight openings a year.

L.L. Bean currently has Main Street/town center stores at the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley in Center Valley, Pa., Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor, Conn., Mansfield Crossing in Mansfield, Mass., as well as a street-scape mall addition in Albany, N.Y. To come are more lifestyle sites, including Ridge Hill in Yonkers, N.Y.

Of the approximately 150 lifestyle centers that exist today in the United States, a high percentage has some Main Street or town-center component. But outdoor retailing isn’t limited to lifestyle centers. An increasing number of the nation’s 1,100 enclosed malls are adding open-air extensions in the form of streetscapes, underscoring that, clearly, Main Streets and town centers have established themselves as “the” shopping format of choice.

Geography has had far less impact on the format’s success than was originally thought. Few questioned the viability of outdoor centers in sunny Florida. But Columbus, Ohio? Dedham, Mass.? On these pages, Chain Store Age has highlighted two Main Street and/or town-center developments—one on the West Coast and one on the East Coast—to illustrate that these types of centers seemingly know no bounds.

The Landing

Location: Renton (Seattle), Wash.Size: 610,000 sq. ft. of retail space, plus 900 residential unitsDeveloper: Harvest Partners, Transwestern Investment Co.Architect: CallisonStatus: Target and Staples are open, and most retail is expected to be open by summer 2008.

The Landing Seattle: One of the greatest strengths of the new town-center development near Seattle also presented the developers and architect with the most significant challenges. “Because The Landing is built on the site of the former Boeing airplane-manufacturing plant, it is a history-rich acreage that is very open and flat, which is difficult to find in a site,” said Stan Laegreid, principal of Seattle-based architectural design firm Callison. “Yet, because it has long been an industrial area, the challenge was to create a community-center destination in a place that people aren’t accustomed to going.”

That’s precisely what Callison and the developers have done—create an engaging town-center environment replete with a vibrant tenant mix and extravagant amenities such as a courtyard plaza, fountains, statuary, seating, an outdoor fireplace and restaurants grouped together with a stadium-style multiplex cinema. “The size and layout of the project will encourage the community to come to The Landing several times a week,” said Bob Baker, partner, Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based Harvest Partners, which developed the project with Chicago-based Transwestern Investment Co.

Tenant commitments thus far include Target, L.A. Fitness, PetSmart, Staples, Regal Cinema, Red Robin, Ross Dress for Less, Verizon and Starbucks. An industrial/aeronautical feel calls out the Boeing heritage, and reinforces the neighboring Boeing Commercial Airplanes 737 Manufacturing Site that remains active today.

Edgewater Square

Location: Edgewater, N.J., nearly equidistant from the entrances to the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln TunnelSize: Nearly 70,000 sq. ft. of retail and restaurant, plus a residential componentDeveloper: National Resources, LLCStatus: Construction is under way, with a slated completion of mid-2009.

Edgewater, N.J.: A prime site edging the Hudson River, with a spectacular view of New York City, Edgewater Square, now under development, is a mixed-use town-center community that is targeting upscale specialty retail and restaurants.

“Being situated right on the Hudson River, on the Gold Coast, we envision an upscale mix of tenants, including restaurants on the promenade along the Hudson,” said Matthew Harding, president of North Plainfield, N.J.-based Levin Management, which is the leasing agent for the center. “Because the new municipal building is being constructed onsite, Edgewater Square will be a town center in the truest sense. We want to provide a mix of tenants that will appeal to everyone in Edgewater.” A Main Street will feature first-floor retail and second-floor residential. All retail space is planned for specialty tenants, as well as a specialty grocer.

Connecticut-based developer National Resources, LLC, is building Edgewater Square to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. The project broke ground in late 2007 and is slated for completion mid-2009. When complete, it will include 480 high-end residences featuring lofts and townhouses with river views of the Manhattan skyline, the new Edgewater Borough Hall municipal building, and nearly 70,000 sq. ft. of retail and waterfront restaurants.