Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Roadmap for Equitable Economic Development Unveiled

We are excited to announce that the Roadmap for Equitable Economic Development: Expanding the Toolkit of the Community Development Movement was released yesterday by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD). This report is a must-read for anyone working in community development, at the intersection of housing and economic development, or making and influencing policy decisions in these areas - particularly in New York City.

This is the first comprehensive set of neighborhood economic development policy recommendations for New York City's new administration and is a call to action for coordinated citywide economic development policy. It is the compilation of insight from ANHD members and other key community economic development service providers within the City of New York. The report, which can be downloaded here, and was written by Larisa Ortiz and Nicole Leighton of Larisa Ortiz Associates, and Mark Foggin of Public Works Partners. Barika X. Williams and Benjamin Dulchin, and the staff and board of ANHD were the driving forces behind this work.

The unveiling, which took place at the Ford Foundation, included panel discussions and presentations by the following distinguished speakers and practitioners working in the field of community development:

George McCarthy, Ford Foundation
Jonathan Bowles, Center for an Urban Future
Nancy Biberman, WHEDCo
Chris Kui, Asian Americans for Equality
Shai Lauros, Cyrpess Hills Local Development Corporation
Larisa Ortiz, Larisa Ortiz Associates
Laura Wolf Powers, U Penn
Barika X Williams (moderator, ANHD)
Leah Archibald, EWVIDCO
Nancy Carin, Business Outreach Center Network
Mark Foggin, Public Works Partners
Adam Friedman, Pratt Center
Yorman Nunez, Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative
Michelle de la Uz (moderator, Fifth Avenue Committee)
Dave Hanzel, Capital One Community Development

The report covers a variety of issues, and identifies industry-wide gaps and needs, but principal takeaways include the following:

Major Challenges for Community Development Organizations Participating in Economic Development Activities
  • Equitable economic development has often been distinct from housing production. 
  • Economic development policy, particularly during the last two decades, has traditionally been approached in a top-down manner, prioritizing large-scale real estate development rather than incorporating community-led initiatives in neighborhoods, leaving few resources available for locally driven initiatives. (This also runs counter to the ethos of the bottom-up approach inherent in the community-development model.) 
  • Economic development planning, funding and activities have largely remained a City-led function, rather than being dispersed and controlled at the local level. 
  • Since Federal CDBG funds are currently the primary funding source for locally-driven equitable economic development and these resource have typically been allocated directly to City agencies, there has been little left over for communities to access the resources they need for grassroots economic development efforts. 
As the community development field evolves, addressing and correcting for these challenges will help ensure that low- and moderate-income communities have the tools and resources they need to plan for and execute locally-driven community development

Recommendations and Findings
  • We need to begin by making a strong compelling rationale for the field of community development. There is little quantitative or qualitative data that speaks to the widespread impact of equitable economic development efforts. 
  • We must re-emphasize locally-driven decision making. Community organizations want and deserve a seat at the decision-making table. Time and again they have demonstrated the capacity to improve communities but need the resources, technical assistance and support to be effective.
  • Fractured decision making among public agencies right now is the rule, not the exception when it comes to neighborhood-based economic development policies. We need consolidated decision-making authority at the city level.
  • Community development organizations have to move beyond CDBG as a source of funding and look to new sources of sustainable economic development funding. Those source include but are not limited to CRA investments, EB5 investments, New Markets Tax Credits, Special Assessment Districts (such as Business Improvement Districts) and other privately funded resources. 
The community development field is evolving, and this report provides the starting point for practitioners to come together and inform a new direction and resource allocation decisions.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Last Call for ICSC Westchester event! "Is your Downtown Retail Ready?"

For those in the NYC area, this is the last call for early registration for what promises to be a very informative Westchester ICSC Alliance networking event and panel discussion. We pulled together a group of great retailers and developers who will tell us about what it REALLY takes to entice developers and retailers to invest in downtown.

Panelists include:

  • Scott Auster, Managing Director of Grid Properties, Inc.  Grid Properties is a real estate and investment firm recognized for it urban retail projects, including Harlem USA and DC USA. 
  • Jonathan Gordon, President of Admiral Real Estate Services (leasing broker for Peachwave Yogurt)
  • Adam Ifshin, President & CEO of DLC Management Corporation and leasing rep for Walgreens Pharmacies)
As the New York State ICSC Alliance Co-Chair, I will be giving some welcoming comments, followed by Lamont Blackstone of G.L Blackstone & Associates, and Mount Vernon Mayork Ernest D. Davis.

Pre-Registration Recommended! Click here to register.

Date: Friday, November 15, 2013
Location: Registration @ Roosevelt Professional Building 11 West Prospect Ave, Mt. Vernon, NY
  • 7:45 - 8:45 Registration
  • 8:45 - 10:00 AM Panel Discussion
  • 10:00 - 11:00 Development Opportunities Spotlight and Networking
Come join us! 

Considering a Downtown Mural? Great! But first educate yourself on the Visual Artists Rights Act

Downtown murals are a popular commercial revitalization technique. They help build community pride, reduce the incidence of graffiti-tagging, and help communicate to shoppers that an area is improving and as a result safer, more attractive place to shop. (See a white paper I wrote for LISC a few years ago entitled “New and definitive evidence on what works to revitalize urban commercial corridors”). But did you know that the federal government confers rights to artists that protect their works of art from modification, destruction or removal? In some cases that is the right thing to do as it allows the artist to maintain the integrity of the original artwork, but in other cases it may impede new projects or development. I will leave that moral judgment for others, but what is important to know is that the federal Visual Artists Rights Act, also known as VARA, gives artists rights to their artwork and prevents the destruction of their art without the artist’s consent.

5Pointz, a former industrial building in Long Island City, Queens, NY,
is well known for the graffiti art that adorns the facade. 
Take for example the famous “Graffiti Building” in Long Island City known as 5Pointz. The building is slated for demolition and redevelopment by the owner, but a number of artists whose artwork adorns the building now claim that the Visual Artists Rights Act means that that the art (and therefore the buildings) “cannot be altered, modified, damaged or destroyed without the artists’ permission,” according to 5Pointz attorney Jeannine Chanes. (Read more: “Graffiti artists of5Pointz go to court to save building”). The case is still pending. 
Ken Twitchell's "Ed Ruscha" mural in the early year
The facade had deteriorated and been vandalized
Another frequently cited example is Kent Twitchell’s famous ‘Ed Ruscha’ mural in Los Angeles. The mural took nine years to paint during the late 1970’s and 80’s. Since then, the mural had fallen prey to some vandalism and lack of maintenance, but the amazing image was still there lording over a parking lot. In 2006, the mural was unceremoniously painted over, without any attempt to ask permission of the artist, as required by law. Twitchell later settled a lawsuit for $1.1 million dollars, the largest VARA settlement to date.

According to Wikipedia, VARA exclusively grants authors of works that fall under the protection of the Act the following rights:
  • right to claim authorship
  • right to prevent the use of one's name on any work the author did not create
  • right to prevent use of one's name on any work that has been distorted, mutilated, or modified in a way that would be prejudicial to the author's honor or reputation
  • right to prevent distortion, mutilation, or modification that would prejudice the author's honor or reputation

Painted over in 2006
The courts however have found that artist’ rights are not absolute, and must also be tempered against commercial realities.

Anyone considering a mural should educate themselves on VARA, and know that VARA waivers are frequently employed to avoid confusion about rights at a later date. VARA waivers "must be very specific: the creator must consent in a written and signed instrument specifically identifying the artwork, the uses of that work, and with a clause limiting the waiver to both aspects. Where the artwork is created by more than one author, any one creator's waiver binds the group.” (From “A Guide to the Visual ArtistsRights Act”).

So by all means, plan for that amazing mural, but be sure to educate yourself, the property owner and the artist on their rights and obligations. An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Putting Your District's Best Foot Forward

Author Kristen Wilke is a Project Manager at Larisa Ortiz Associates. 

Whenever friends come to visit my hometown (see below), I take them on a tour of some of my favorite places. Mostly I bring them to the places off the beaten path - a hard-to-find antique store, the waterfall, my friend's cafe, the independent movie theater - all places that one might not find without an experienced guide. If my friends visited without my carefully curated itinerary, they might have a different experience. Rather than a beautiful town with unique history, charming shops and sightseeing, they might drive in the other direction and find fields and an abundance of gas stations.

As a district manager, you most likely have a similar challenge. You know your district is great (even if the streetscape or the business mix has a few challenges), but not everyone will have a seasoned tour guide to help them get their bearings. When visitors don't have anyone to show them the way, or don't know what to look for, they may leave with a negative first impression. On top of that, even before visitors see your district, they most likely have done a little research on their own. They've read through reviews online to find businesses, or if they're coming from further away, may have gotten ahold of a guide book. These resources aren't necessarily telling the right story.
Since you can't be everyone's tour guide, here are a few ideas for helping to put your district's best foot forward:

Work with businesses to remind shoppers or diners to write positive reviews (on Yelp, or any other sites that people turn to for reviews in your city) if they had a good experience. Try to build positive feedback and debunk the negative. In New Rochelle, New York, our firm worked with the local Business Improvement District to do an “online optimization”, where we helped the BID correct and update information about the area and local businesses (on local travel websites Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc). We also recommended that the BID work with restaurants to encourage diners to write about their positive experiences on Yelp by putting small postcards reminders in with the check.

Scan what the guidebooks are saying about your district. Did they leave something out? Are they presenting it in a negative light? I once worked in a community where a popular guidebook dismissed one retail corridor entirely, advising shoppers not to waste their time. When I saw that, I emailed the editor about all of the great things they must have missed. Today (though admittedly this could have had little to do with my email) the corridor's description is much more positive. You are the local expert, so make sure publications have information to tell the right story about your district. 

- Last week I wrote about taking real estate brokers on a tour of your district so that they can then tell the right story to the retail tenants they represent. If you missed it, take a look at it here

- Control the message by writing a neighborhood profile and posting it (everywhere). Some ideas:
  • Wikipedia
  • Travel websites
  • Local real estate blogs and databases
  • Yelp
The most important thing is that all of this is rooted in facts. Don't write that your community is a happening destination for shopping and dining if your stores are primarily convenience-oriented - misled visitors won't come back. 

Here is a tool that I like to use when thinking about how to tell a neighborhood's story (click for a larger version): 

This graphic is included in a guide called, Branding Your City by CEOs for Cities. The whole report is definitely worth a read.

Here is how we used it to think about a community we worked with recently:

It is helpful for taking what may be someone's negative first impression, and putting it in a different light. Try thinking about your district in this way. It will help to craft your message in a way that reshapes negative perceptions and promotes an identity that is rooted in reality. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

5 Ideas for Building Your List of Retail Prospects

So you want to attract new retailers to your commercial district. Perhaps you've done a market study already, and if so, you're off to a great start. But how do you take that study and run with it?

A few months back we posted some strategies in Retail Recruitment 101: Tips for Identifying Potential Tenants. Here are a five more to get you started.

1. Invite a tenant rep to come on a tour of your district.
Buy them a coffee (or channel your inner Don Draper and opt for a cocktail if you're looking to attract bars and restaurants) and take them on a walk through the district. Plan ahead - let a few retailers know you're coming by and ask them to say a few words about (how great it is) doing business there. Coordinate with property owners or brokers so that your guest can tour a few spaces that are available. Once you're done, send them off with marketing materials to share with their clients.

2. “E-prospect” 
You don't have to buy a subscription to an expensive database to find prospects online. Here are some free and easy things to try:
  • Search Yelp for businesses with good reviews in similar neighborhoods. Popular shops may be ready to open up another location. 
  • Read blogs and papers (and follow them on Facebook) to find out about new store openings and expansions. 
  • Set Google email alerts to track specific stores and brokers.
3. Visit "like" districts.
Go to a commercial district that has similar customers. Browse, eat, and while you're at it, take photos and notes on stores that would fit nicely in your neighborhood. Strike up a conversation with a few business owners if you can. Find out if they're looking to expand and invite them to come on a tour of your corridor.

4. Consider attending an ICSC event 
The International Council of Shopping Centers has networking events all the time, all over the world. The big ones are Dealmaking in Las Vegas in May and in NYC in December. If you want to find tenant reps or national retailers, that's where they'll be.

5. Be persistent
If you want to get on a retailer or broker's radar, mailing a brochure probably won't be enough. Send your marketing materials, include a customized letter, follow up with an email and then give them a call. If you throw enough mud, eventually something will stick!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pop-Up Stores: Here to Stay?

Online retailer Etsy opened its first pop-up store
over the 2013 holidays in Brooklyn, NY 
Furniture retailer Crate and Barrel is now doing temporary pop-up stores? Yes, in fact, they are. In Las Vegas, C&B recently leased 6,700 sf in a local mall for a temporary showroom. Keep in mind that their typical stores run between 25,000 sf to 30,000 sf or more. According to the retailer, these small temporary stores help them "test the market" and determine whether a long term investment in permanent space is worth it. A recent WSJ article (Pop-Up Stores Raise a Question for Landlords, 10/22) covers some of the issues and concerns that landlords are raising as the pop-up store becomes more popular.

More and more downtown organizations are exploring the use of  pop-ups as a tool in revitalization efforts, and for good reason.  For downtown, pop-ups can be especially good for spaces that have been vacant for a while. When a vacant site has no recent tenant sales figures, neither the landlord nor the retailer are in a position to appropriately and fairly price the space. This is sometimes why a space can remain vacant for longer than necessary...and this is where a pop-up can come in to play. Instead of leaving the space vacant, which produces no cash flow for the owner, a landlord may be open to renting the space short term for a lower rent (almost like a teaser rate). This gives the landlord cash flow they wouldn't otherwise have, but does not tie them down in a long-term lease they consider too low. It also gives the retailer a low-risk way to test the market. With sales figures in hand, a retailer would then have more information and data to negotiate a lease term and rates that are sustainable over the long term. And if the downtown organization is involved, it gives the organization the sales information necessary to potentially lure other retailers downtown.
Circa 2010. A Toys-R-Us Pop Up Store in an
old bank on Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY

Pop-ups may also serve retailers who are looking to avoid permanent space altogether. When you consider that most retailers only turn profits during the holiday season, opening up stores just to capture those sales makes good business sense, especially if your business does a lot of internet sales. Hence the Etsy Holiday Shop - a pop-up store in the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. Expect to see more of these types of establishments in the future. Union Square in New York was among the first, but now many Business Improvement Districts enliven their public spaces with temporary craft markets during the holidays. These markets are basically open-air pop-up stores...before the term pop-up was popular of course!

Is your Downtown organization exploring pop-up stores? If so we'd love to hear more about it!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The roads (and trains) to downtown are crumbling

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal chronicled the infrastructure challenges facing our cities and suburbs (“Slow Road to Recovery", WSJ, 10/14). This is a real problem for urban communities, as the majority of the aging infrastructure is located in our urban centers. As the article mentions, 42% of urban highways are congested. And it’s not just our highway infrastructure that is at risk, our mass transit infrastructure is also deteriorating with no major reinvestment in sight. New York may be an outlier in its dependence on mass transit – at least for an American city – but the challenges here are no less acute than elsewhere.

Why should transportation matter to those of us working to improve downtown and neighborhood commercial districts? Because commercial districts function first and foremost when they are convenient. This is why we often hear merchants say parking is critical. But the truth is, it is often less about parking than it is about plain old access. Businesses in dense urban communities often lack parking, but they are doing just fine thank you. As a visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute, I often talk to my students about the importance of access. Whether by car, bike, bus, train or two legs, one of the things we can do to support commercial districts to ensure that are easy and convenient for people to visit, work and shop in. 

One particular issue that came up in the recent Mayoral primary here in New York was the long commute that many New Yorker's face. In fact, mayoral candidate Christine Quinn made a case for public policy that would, by the year 2023, ensure that no New Yorker commute more than an hour to and from work. In a city like New York, which is really a collection of cities, these distances matter. Young professionals priced out of Manhattan and increasingly Brooklyn – and whose jobs are downtown or in other boroughs – will increasingly choose other cities where life is just well, easier. In fact, a few years ago the City of Philadelphia built an entire marketing campaign around attracting these young professionals, calling on them to “Stop Paying Someone Else’s Mortgage”. They might as well have added, “decrease your commute by half and live in a decent apartment you can afford while you are at it!”
I guess public transportation access
to Philly has greatly improved.

I often joke with my friends in Brooklyn (I live in Queens) that they might as well live in Philadelphia, because sometimes that is how long it takes me to get there by public transit. By car, with no traffic (which as we now know is rare) the commute can easily be three times as long. The long commute also disproportionately affects lower income people – of the 750,000 commuters in New York who travel more than an hour a day, ¾ of them earn less than $35,000/year. The lost productivity, not to mention the incredible waste and pollution created by this congestion is a shame. When Quinn mentioned during the mayoral primaries that “our transportation infrastructure hasn’t kept pace” – she might as well have been talking about all major American cities.

One of the glimmers of hope, however, is the growing bicycle infrastructure that is being built. I recently wrote about a panel I attended at the International Downtown Association conference on “bike friendly business districts”. Improving access to our business districts by ensuring that biking is convenient and safe is probably one of the smartest moves we can make to support our local commercial districts - particularly in dense urban areas. That, and investing in our overall urban infrastructure before it undermines continued economic growth. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Favorite Moments from the IDA World Congress 2013

Kristen is a (reluctant) blogger and (enthusiastic) project manager at Larisa Ortiz Associates. 

The Commercial District Advisor team spent the beginning of this week at the International Downtown Association (IDA) World Congress and 59th Annual Conference. The event brought downtown managers and other urbanists from all over the world to New York City for three days of panels, round tables, tours and workshops.

With so many things to see and do, it is difficult to put together a complete list of highlights. Here are just a few of my favorites...

1. Sitting in the front row while Mayor Mike Bloomberg talks about adding "zest" to city life.

2. Kristopher Larson, ED of the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority's insightful and entertaining presentation on innovative approaches to modern public engagement.

The takeaway? The "same old" strategies for getting public input in downtown revitalization projects don't work anymore. To be effective in reaching new downtown residents and soliciting their input, use social media (polls on Facebook, for example) and rethink public meetings (see image), to name a few.

3. Seeing how other cities around the world approach their marketing materials for business attraction. (The Mill Avenue District in Downtown Tempe's "Brag Sheet" is a great idea. Click the photo for digital versions of Mill Avenue's materials.)

4. Taking Placemaking 301 with Dan Biederman, and learning that one of the metrics for evaluating Bryant Park is the ratio of women to men using the park every day (when women outnumber men, it is a good day). More about the counts on their blog.

5. At the Day 2 Plenary Session held at Pratt Institute (my alma mater), Professor Stuart Pertz presents the Pratt Program for Sustainable Planning and Development's new Placemaking curriculum that is in the works (and then I live Tweet it).

6. The Commercial District Advisor (in the flesh!) giving a presentation on Identifying and Attracting the Appropriate Retailers and Developers.

7. And finally, when downtown managers from all over the world got together in DUMBO, and this happens:

Did you attend IDA this year? If so, what were some of your favorite moments? Let us know in the comments, or on our Facebook.

IDA Recap: Bike Friendly Business Districts and their Impact on Local Business

Yesterday marked the close of the International Downtown Association World Conference! What a fantastic event - and I'm so pleased that Larisa Ortiz Associates was able to participate as a contributing sponsor.

One of my favorite panels was on Bike Friendly Business Districts (BFBD). One speaker, April Economides of Alta Planning + Design spoke to the impact of bike infrastructure on local businesses. The successful launch of Citibike in New York is but one testament to the pent up demand - and opportunities - that more bike infrastructure unleashes. What made this session particularly powerful was the economic case for Bicycle-Friendly Business Districts that can be made - and measured! In San Francisco, new lanes led to increased sales by local merchants. In Fort Worth, restaurant sales increased 200% after lanes were introduced. In Toronto along Bloor Street, bicyclists spend more money in the area than drivers...and the list goes on. Some good links to research on this include:
Another speaker, Tifanny Bromfeld, CEO of the BID Council in San Diego spoke to the incredible impact that the effort has had in business districts throughout San Diego. It was wonderful to hear their real life stories and I know other attendees came out as inspired as I was!

Unfortunately, not every community gets the link between businesses and bikes - and so there is clearly a lot of work to be done. One recent example...I recently developed a downtown plan for a community where the local Mayor expressed serious misgivings about encouraging bicycle usage. He didn't want to have to spend the money to maintain bike infrastructure (including lanes, bike parking, etc.) and didn't quite see how it was a smart downtown revitalization strategy. In fact, he saw bikes as a nuisance and was pushing for legislation that would make locking bikes to sign posts illegal. This without providing bike parking. This despite the fact that the town's experience during Hurricane Sandy (and the lack of available gas) made biking and walking a vital necessity. This despite the fact that downtown businesses do deliveries and need the parking and access. This despite the inherently walk-ability of the surrounding residential community that would make biking a perfect fit. It still confounds me, but armed with more information I know that a stronger case for a Bike Friendly Business District can be made!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Spurring Revitalization, LISC and New Kensington CDC unveil "Model Block" in Philadelphia

I was excited to attend the unveiling of the "Model Block" yesterday - the result of a nearly 18 month effort to bring technical assistance and resources to the New Kensington Community Development Corporation in Fishtown, Philadelphia. The program, called "Corridors of Retail Excellence" is run by LISC MetroEdge (LME). As a consultant to LISC, my job was to help diagnose the corridor challenges and identify a menu of strategic improvements that would accomplish multiple goals; address the unique conditions of the street, deliver visible impact for pedestrians and drivers along the busy thorough fare, and leverage additional funds...a tall order! But we did it! Over the course of the project, two new retailers opened up on the Model Block, one restaurant is slated to open shortly, and an additional $25k in funds were secured to fund the additional marketing and promotional materials for the district. 

One exciting component of the project was an interactive fence that will serve to bridge the new retail node with the rest of the district. The fence is designed to host activities, from an impromptu First Friday Gallery show to a sidewalk sale. The program also included storefront improvements for local businesses and was funded by a $98,000 grant from the PNC Foundation and delivered by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC). 
The Interactive Fence with flexible "shelves" that can serve as
benches, display tables or tables. Just pull up a chair and enjoy!
The goal of the Model Block program was to accelerate the economic revitalization of Fishtown.  In addition to the interactive fence around a vacant lot anchoring the block of 300 East Girard Avenue, four properties between Marlborough and East Oxford Streets will receive façade improvements.  The businesses are Keys to the Attic (314 E Girard), NicNacs4Peanuts (312 E Girard), Dash Delivery (310 E Girard), and Push Skate Gallery (306 E Girard).  

East Girard businesses suffer from significant gaps in the retail mix and lack of continuous activity despite the high visibility of the corridor.  The Model Block initiative seeks to spark investment along the street by establishing a model for improvements on one block ripe for retail activity and economic improvement.

“Redeveloping small properties can be a big challenge. The PNC funding gave us direct access to LISC experts, a professional design team and NKCDC staff w
ho all went above and beyond. The result is budget-friendly and visually appealing.  It addresses crucial design elements in a way that can be applied to almost any neighborhood project. This experience will certainly shape our future development decisions,” said Josh Olivo, Principal URBAN-CORE Development, owner of 310 & 312 E. Girard.

A National Program
Fishtown was one of six communities nationwide selected through a competitive process for the LISC program called Corridors of Retail Excellence (CORE).  It’s a national initiative delivering visible improvements and capacity-building in low and moderate-income communities. 

“The CORE program provides communities with access to both expertise and funds to encourage additional community investments,” said Terri Copeland, Vice President of Community Development Banking from PNC. “Commercial corridor revitalization provides an opportunity to attract residents from different neighborhoods.  In achieving that, business corridors are transformed from a dividing line between communities, to a bridge.”

For Fishtown, LISC gathered intelligence through focus groups and individual meetings with local business owners, through market data analysis and through a study of best practices in other LISC communities.  Other selected communities include 52nd Street in Philadelphia, Lawrenceville and Mount Washington in Pittsburgh and the Quad Communities and Uptown in Chicago.

CORE provides technical assistance to businesses and business-support groups to attract customers and improve profitability; facilitate property improvements; develop capacity and expanded leadership in local communities and business-development organizations; and engage stakeholders in developing strategies.

Catalyst for the Community
According to Angie Williamson, economic development director of NKCDC, the grant from the PNC Foundation is a strong catalyst for additional investments in the neighborhood. It funded a Storefront Improvement Menu so business owners can easily make simple updates to their properties such as signage, lighting, awnings and security enhancements. 

“The grant also gave us the impetus to acquire funding from the City’s Storefront Improvement Program (SIP).  It reimburses store owners up to 50 percent for their investment in commercial corridor façade improvements,” she said. “We also secured $25,000 from Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development for a comprehensive marketing plan to create branding and direct further streetscape improvements.”

According to LISC commercial corridor consultant Larisa Ortiz, similar low-cost, highly visible improvements around the country have inspired additional investments by business and property owners. “The CORE approach has worked in communities from Phoenix to Rhode Island and has been an amazing catalyst for neighborhood transformation and the leveraging of additional community resources.” Andy Frishkoff, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) adds “We are so pleased to connect national resources to our local community partners. This project will serve as a model for future LISC investments along Philadelphia’s commercial corridors.

Interactive Fence
Designed by MAKE. architecture+planning, the Model Block includes a modular interactive fence with multi-level platforms that can serve as benches, tables and shelves.  “We looked at these vacant lots and tried to imagine ways of activating these areas,” said Brian Szymanik of MAKE. “We thought that if we could invite people to spend some time in front of them, then perhaps they could attract life in what are currently empty spaces.

“We like to think of the system we’ve designed as urban infrastructure.  Ideally, this fence should allow for a wide variety of uses to activate the corner of the block and support the community, local retail, and neighborhood residents.  A fence is almost always used as a way to separate people, but this project asks the question whether or not it is possible for a fence to be something that brings us together.”

Monday, September 30, 2013

10 NYC Commercial Districts to Get Wired

Today, NYC's Mayor Bloomberg announced that free Wi-Fi is coming to 10 commercial corridors throughout New York City.

The corridors (and the organizations who will implement and oversee the Wi-Fi programs) were selected through the Wireless Corridor Challenge, led by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. The selected organizations are the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Alliance for Downtown New York, Brooklyn Academy of Music, GOWEX, and Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership.

Starting in December of 2013, here are the district's where you'll be able to access the free Wi-Fi:
Brooklyn: the Fulton Street corridor, BAM Cultural District, Brownsville, and Downtown Brooklyn
Manhattan: Flatiron District, Water Street Corridor, East River waterfront in Lower Manhattan, the 125th Street corridor in Harlem and on Roosevelt Island
Queens: Long Island City
Staten Island: St. George commercial district
The Bronx: Fordham Road

Today also marks the launch of WiredNYC, a rating system for the broadband connectivity of office buildings. Click here for the press release.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Landlords find ways to help independent tenants succeed

Great piece on how developers and landlords are trying to help independent retailers. Although focused on shopping center owners, these tips are useful for commercial district managers. Be sure to check out the video link at the bottom of this post as well. For original article please click here. SCT Newswire


Landlords are always on the lookout for independent retailers who show both passion and commitment. But the next Gaps and J. Crews of the world need to be just as careful about the landlords they choose to work with, said experts at SCT Live’s “Independent Chains Need a Hand” event, in Atlanta last week.

If the landlord is laser-focused on rent and seems uninterested in the prospective tenant’s business model or target customer, it is a huge red flag, said Christopher M. Conlan, executive vice president and COO of Acadia Realty Trust. “You have to know if the landlord is too rent-driven,” he said. “It is incumbent upon tenants to do this investigation.”

And that’s because in today’s post-recession environment, the landlord might well need to go the extra mile to support the retailer in a variety of ways, said Lyle E.T. Darnall, managing director of the Southeast for Columbia, S.C.-based Edens. Darnall described how his firm works extensively with newcomer tenants to help them find signage vendors, say, or design and merchandise their storefronts. “You’ve got to make sure the space is right for them,” he said. “They lack build-out expertise.”

Why not simply stick with the low-risk credit and universal brand-recognition of national chains? These retailers are critical, of course, but locally owned shops can help the center forge deeper connections with shoppers, said Andrea Kenney, vice president of retail agency leasing at Jones Lang LaSalle. “Each property has its own personality, and independents understand that personality,” she said. “They’re a recognizable face in the community.”

The panel included entrepreneurs Cici Coffee, founder of Natural Body Spa (nine locations in Atlanta and 14 in the Southeast); Amanda Hair of Bob Steele Salon (three salons in metro Atlanta), and Kathryn Poe, owner of the Mary Mojo Boutique in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. They each described challenges and lessons learned as independent retailers. An English major in college with no formal business experience, Poe recalled starting out in 2006 with a boutique space that was both too large and too expensive. “I didn’t even know you could negotiate the lease,” she said, laughing.

Coffee emphasized the importance of looking beyond the demographic data on the page to truly understand the psychographics of prospective sites. Noting the stiff competition of the discounters, Hair described how her salon now focuses exclusively on products not sold by the likes of Walmart or Target. All the experts on the panel emphasized the importance of personalized service in today’s marketplace. “There’s no substitute for unique customer service,” Conlan said, “and independent retailers are the best at it.”

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Professional Development Opportunity: "Identifying and Attracting the Appropriate Retailers and Developers"

I am very excited to be partnering with the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) to offer an advanced retail leasing training at the upcoming International Downtown Association World Congress in New York (Oct. 6 - 9). The session is nearly sold out so be sure to register if you haven't already. Pre-Conference sessions are available to conference attendees and can be added your conference package when you register. Advance registration for the conference is closed, but you can register on-site. For more information click here.

Here is a session description. Hope to see you there!


Identifying and Attracting the Appropriate Retailers and Developers
Date: Sunday, October 6
Location: Marriott Marquis, Jolson Room, 9th Floor, 1535 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
Time: 9:00 a.m. –12:00 p.m.

What does it take to get your community on a retailer's radar? What do retailers, both big and small, want to see before making investment decisions? This pre-conference workshop presents valuable information on how to assess the needs and desires of retailers and how to approach them; what consumer demographics should be highlighted; and what incentives and subsidies are likely to sweeten the deal and get them to sign on. Case studies will be presented of successful municipal retail attraction programs that have sparked investment at both the downtown and neighborhood levels.

You’ll also learn how to work collaboratively with your property owners and brokerage community to improve retail mix; what amenities help make your community more attractive to retailers, such as access, parking, lighting, safety, highway and road access, and retail competition; and practical tools and tips for getting the most out of retail trade shows and identifying regional or independent retailers that might be harder to find.

Attendees will each receive a complimentary ICSC textbook to accompany the course material: Retail Development Through Public-Private Partnerships, by David G. Wallace.

Larisa Ortiz, Principal, Larisa Ortiz Associates
Cynthia Stewart, Director, Community Relations, ICSC

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Latino Marketing: Deconstructing the Myths of the Latino Customer

The “Hispanic” or “Latino” market is all the rage these days. But even as retailers attempt to unpack what it means to successfully market to Latino customers, I continue to see misinformation and gross generalizations being spread. Let's take a peek at some of the more interesting lessons from those who have learned the hard way...

Torta versus sandwich
I just finished reading a retail trade magazine. In it, a “Hispanic” market specialist says that sandwich retailers overlook the Hispanic market because they think that Latinos don’t eat sandwiches. He said that this was a mistake. In fact, Latinos DO eat sandwiches...“they just call them tortas.” Well, as a Puerto Rican raised in New York, I took some umbrage to that. I have NEVER called a sandwich a "torta". In Puerto Rico, you go to the local baker and ask for a “sanwich de jamon, huevo y queso” or a ham, egg and cheese sandwich. Yes,yes...in Puerto Rico sandwiches are "sanwiches”. The suggestion to call sandwiches "tortas" might work in Phoenix, but not in Puerto Rican or Dominican sections of New York City. With 47% of the Hispanic population living in California or Texas (and most of those are Mexican or Central American), I can see how it’s easy to over generalize. But in markets like Chicago and New York where there are significant Caribbean communities, retailers stand to lose a lot by failing to make the distinction.
Salsa versus Bachata
In one recent community where I did some work the Business Improvement District wanted to target the local Latino immigrant population by offering open air salsa dancing in a downtown plaza. Attendance was quite low among their target audience and they didn't understand why. As a result, the event was never repeated. The assumption that the BID made was that the Latino consumer didn't attend events like these, so why bother? After our team conducted a number of merchant interviews, including one with the owners of a local Salvadoran restaurant, it became clear what the problem was. The owner mentioned something that should have been quite obvious at the outset. Most of the local immigrants were Central American, and Central Americans aren't typically into salsa. Woops. 

First generation versus second generation
-          There is a big difference between foreign born and U.S. born Hispanics. According to the National Council of La Raza, 62.7% of all Latinos are native-born Americans, and 74% are American citizens. Marketing to these U.S born Hispanics requires a different set of tactics…ones that go beyond (and maybe even don’t include) bilingual packaging. As the children of immigrant Latinos grow up speaking English as their primary language, other kinds of marketing tools will be required. Recently, our firm conducted survey work in a small city with a large Latino population. The City was sensitive to the political climate and insisted that we make a survey available in Spanish. We noted that the survey was an online survey - as a result most survey respondents would likely be second generation and therefore likely to take the survey in English anyway. In the end, they survey was created, distributed and translated at significant cost to the client – and we only got four Spanish language responses. This is not to suggest it wasn't a good political move...I think it was...but it wasn't the best use of limited resources for this particular community. 

Baseball versus soccer
Growing up Puerto Rican, I was never exposed to soccer, but baseball, that was a different story. My family grew up following the Yankee’s every pitch (and they still do!).  But in my current neighborhood in Jackson Heights, Queens, alternatively known as Little Colombia, the sport of choice is soccer, despite the fact that Mets stadium is literally within walking distance. In one community our firm recently worked in, a local sporting goods store wanted to attract the growing immigrant clientele and started selling soccer jerseys – but did so without checking which regional teams were the most popular. Woops again.

The point here is that you can’t over generalize the “Latino” market. If you have a strong immigrant market, you must first ask yourself, where are they from? Central America? South America? The Caribbean? And then you have to ask whether most of them first or second generation. By answering those two questions, you will find yourself ahead of the game and in a better position to meet the needs of your district's customers. 


Monday, August 26, 2013

I just loved this article ("Strip Malls Turn Heads", Realtor Mag, July 2013) on how vacancies are declining at strip malls - which are basically the equivalent of neighborhood shopping districts. There were so many juicy nuggets of information that I took the liberty of extrapolating the take away's that I think are most appropriate for commercial district managers. These retailing principles apply whether you are trying to manage a strip mall or a neighborhood shopping district...

- Offer goods that people don't want to wait a day or two to get. 

  • “Even in the age of online retailing, there are some items you don’t want to wait a day or two to get.” 

- Combine destination and service. 

  • “Today, centers need to merge convenience with destination and services that can’t be obtained through an online channel. A good location isn't sufficient.” On some of the more successful corridors I am seeing more and more services. It makes sense, given that these are things that people cannot get online. 

- Placemaking matters.

  • Shopping centers must create “that right third place after work and home where people want to congregate. It’s by far the best way to increase traffic to the entire center". For commercial district managers, this means taking care to ensure your public spaces are safe and compelling places to spend time. Third-places also include coffee shops...and important addition to a neighborhood shopping district. 

- The importance of tenant mix.

  • “Choosing the right tenants is more important than getting the higher rent. If you create a dynamic mix in which each tenant shines and complements one another, you create an environment that generates more sales and traffic than each tenant alone. Ultimately, higher sales will generate higher rental rates.” I couldn't agree more. This is a critical message that commercial district managers must continue to hammer into the heads of property owners. Improving tenant mix in a commercial district is the equivalent of a tide that lifts all boats. 

- Even 1/2 block matters when retailers select locations. 

  • “Many tenants—even smaller ones—are willing to wait and even pay more for the right location". We never assume that every site within your district is the same as every other site. Instead, we like to do a block-by-block analysis to determine exactly which blocks are right fit for the right kind of retailer.  We've learned the hard way...some retailers will only take a corner location at a subway entrance. For others mid-block is fine. This is why keeping a prospect  database is key to successful retail attraction efforts. You may not have the right space for a tenant today, but in a few months you'll have just the right vacancy to suit a prospects needs and you'll need to a way to keep track of their preferences and conduct follow up as appropriate.

- Restaurants can and do function as anchors.

  • "...you only need one of the very popular, 2,500-square-foot restaurant concepts to anchor the property and create the increased traffic other tenants want”. No surprise here. Restaurants are effectively the new downtown anchor. 

- Focus on health and beauty. 

  • "Health and beauty retailers are one of the fastest growing retail categories today. Tenants like day spas, waxing, and massage keep shoppers around for several hours, especially baby boomers and others with more disposable income"
  • "...fitness is a sure-fire draw, particularly for the under-35 demographic"

- Consider a specialized niche...i.e. don't try to be everything to everybody. 

  • Is your strength an immigrant community? Then consider an ethnic niche. "Ethnically oriented specialty centers, which offer groceries, home decor, food, and even clothing for one large immigrant group"
  • Or maybe you are a family-oriented district? Do you offer a full range of activities and services for families? “Everything for the mom and the child is in one place,”

- Marketing....

  • "Loyalty programs and coupons distributed through social media and mail are another widely used retail promotional tool"
  • Tell the story of your retailers. "Customers are often attracted by the personality and personal story of the owner. Shoppers, especially younger ones, will go and support a favorite store by buying a $300 pair of jeans made locally rather than buying three less expensive pairs online”.

- Up-keep matters!! 

  • “Street appeal is absolutely key to making a center a destination” 
  • “Cosmetic appearance is the No. 1 thing that consumers comment on, and it’s an easy one to fix” 
  • "Painting and parking lot re-striping should be done at least every other year, extensive facade renovations are also necessary every seven to 10 years"


Seward Park Mixed-Use Development will transform more than six acres of underutilized land and transform them into a vibrant mixed-use development. Miriam Harris will speak about this and other projects. 
Update - Miriam cancelled briefly to accommodate a mayoral press event...which was then cancelled...so we are back on! Come join us for what promises to be a great conversation with fantastic networking!


As co-chair of the New York ICSC Alliance Committee, I am pleased to announce a conversation with Miriam Harris, Senior Vice President of Real Estate Transactions at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC). NYEDC is New York City’s lead agency for public-private real estate development projects in all five boroughs of the City. As Senior Vice President at EDC, Ms. Harris has a keen understanding of what it takes to successfully partner with the City to bring a project from concept to completion. She is currently responsible for over 25 active projects including the 62 acre Willets Point Project in Queens, the 1.5 million square foot Seward Park mixed-use project on the lower east side of Manhattan and the 2 million square foot Cornell-Tech campus on Roosevelt Island.

The breakfast event will be held at ICSC Global Headquarters, 1221 Avenue of the Americas on Sept. 19th. Pre-registration is required to ensure you do not have problems with security. Seating is also limited, so please register ASAP. Registration fees: Members, $20; Non-Members, $35. Click here to register.

The ICSC Alliance Program is a program of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), the international trade association for the commercial retail estate industry. Alliance Programs are wonderful opportunities to network, share experiences and exchange ideas with commercial real estate professionals from both the private and public sectors. Needless to say...bring business cards!

If you want to know more, or to get involved in planning ICSC events such as these, please feel free to contact me at lortiz@larisaortizassociates.com.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Save Time and Resources. Start by going after the RIGHT retailers.

Not quite the kind of retail that
attracts young and trendy customers.
Devising a retail attraction strategy is a bit like threading a needle. Getting the thread through the needle requires a keen eye for details  or you will miss your mark entirely - and end up a bit frustrated to boot! In this post we make the case that diagnosis, analysis and market data are critical to ensuring you spend time chasing the right tenants, not the wrong ones. But knowing what kind of tenants to pursue is just one piece of the puzzle for commercial district managers, the other is getting buy-in from local stakeholders, including BID Board members, property owners and brokers, that your recommendations are sound and market-based. Having the right data and presenting it well is part of what it means to have an effective retail attraction strategy. Basically, when you know what kind of district you are, or can be, and you have the facts to back you up, you can be much more successful in selling your vision and attracting new retailers.

But getting to that point first requires answering a few questions. In our work, we typically begin our market research by answering the following...

1. Know what retail categories you can support and would make a good addition to your district. At its most basic, this involves looking at your market and retail leakage data and talking to your existing retailers. A more sophisticated analysis would involve focus groups and maybe even customer surveys. Surveys are useful when you have a lot of non-local resident customers (mostly because Census Data won't tell you much about their consumer preferences).

2. Know what price point is right for your market. Are you a high-end or value-oriented district? Missing the mark on price point can be the death knell for a local business. For example, we are working in one community that needs an electronics store - and a few years ago they got one. But it was a little too high-end for the local community and the store owner did not do much to change the merchandise mix and price point to reflect his customer base. Within a year, the store was closed and the owner in debt. Now, understandably, other electronic stores are hesitant about the market. This is the worst possible scenario, because while the market CAN support the right retailer they will all be hesitant because of the failure of one retailer who shouldn't have been there to begin with.

3. Know your district's "lifestyle segment". In the retail industry, retailers are categorized by "lifestyle". While the industry terms vary slightly depending on who you ask, generally lifestyle falls into three fairly self-explanatory categories, "conservative", "contemporary" or "trendy". Take a moment and think about the retailers you know and love. Where do they fall on the spectrum? Conservative retailers will sell you the basics, won't try to rock the boat with far out advertising or styles that will change drastically from season to season. People from many walks of life and many backgrounds may shop at this kind of retailer. On the other hand, contemporary retailers try to keep on trend, but within reason. Think Macy's or Banana Republic. Trendy retailers are a bit more avante-guarde and appeal to a smaller segment of the population. Think Brooklyn Industries or American Apparel. They typically need a larger trade area to survive, because they are pulling fewer customers from the general population and therefore need to attract people from a larger geographic area.

4. Now combine price point and lifestyle.... With this information in hand, you can begin asking similar questions of your target customer. What kind of price point are they comfortable with (this will likely correlate with their income). Do they tend to shop at conservative, contemporary or trendy stores? In answering this question be sure you have an adequate cross section of respondents...if you are only talking to long-time residents and not new arrivals, for instance, your findings may be skewed. Psychographic data can also be helpful in illuminating these subtle distinctions. Our firm uses ESRI Tapestry Segmentation. (For more ESRI Tapestry Segmentation, go here.)

To communicate how all of these data points overlap, we created a proprietary matrix called the LOA Strategic Positioning Matrix (TM). This deceptively simple chart has evolved slowly over time and is based partially on the work of veteran retail consultant John C. Williams ("Getting Retail Right"), the author of some excellent books on retail that are must reads for practitioners in the field. In any case, in the past we often struggled with communicating succinctly how market data and retail opportunities overlapped until we developed this tool. Now, the more we use this the more it has become one of the most useful tools in our arsenal! In any case, by taking William's framework for retail to another level,  we have been able to more effectively describe a district and its customers to stakeholders, property owners, brokers, etc for the purposes of finding the most viable tenants.

In the next few images, I will share with you how we use this tool with our clients to help them refine their retail attraction efforts so that they target only those tenants that will help round out and improve overall retail mix. This strategy helps save communities from chasing tenants who are the wrong fit and conserves valuable human and capital resources.

LOA Strategic Positioning Matrix
The level of detail encapsulated in the LOA Matrix ensures that the retail attraction strategies we offer are extremely customized and reflective of the unique conditions of any given neighborhood. We've also found that the matrix can be very useful in dealing with key local stakeholders. Stakeholders can sometimes misjudge their district (surprise, surprise!). For example, they may think that the district is in a position to attract a much higher-end retailer than the market can truly support. This tool can help you quickly manage expectations and keep everyone on the same page as retail recruitment begins in earnest.

Here are of our recent projects that demonstrate how we use this tool.

Steinway Street, Astoria, Queens: Tenant-Customer Mismatch
Our analysis revealed the need to bring tenant mix in line with a rapidly changing demographic. Steinway Street merchants may have been the right mix for the neighborhood in the 1990's, but today the tenant mix is somewhat outdated. Younger, mobile professionals are moving in - and are spending their dollars elsewhere. Addressing these issues and meeting the needs of this growing population will be critical to ensuring that Steinway Street businesses are effective and successful. So how did we communicate this to stakeholders?

Diagram 1: Steinway Street - Existing Tenant Mix Analysis
We first mapped retailers according to two criteria, price point and lifestyle. The vertical axis maps Price Point, while the horizontal axis maps Lifestyle.  Every existing and potential tenant can be mapped on the Matrix. For Steinway, an extremely long corridor with a number of divergent identities, we did a block by block analysis to discern significant differences between blocks. In the Matrix below, each color blob represents a block along the street. As you can see, some blocks offer a mix that is solidly contemporary and mid-priced., including the strongest block on the street that includes a number of national popular priced chains such as The Gap, Express and Victoria's Secret. Other blocks are much more varied in offerings, lacking a clear identity for shoppers. For the most part, the offerings on the street are low to moderate in price and decidedly traditional and contemporary.

Diagram 2: Steinway Street - Residential Psychographic Analysis...a Mismatch was Obvious
We then analyzed the district's psychographic data and found that 95% of the market fell into two categories, "trendsetters" and "urban melting pot". ESRI defines each of these as follows: Trendsetters are young, diverse and mobile. They are spenders. Fashion-conscious, they shop at stores like Banana Republic, Gap, Nordstrom and Macy’s. They buy organic food, exercise regularly and own the latest electronics. Urban Melting Pot neighborhoods are ethnically diverse, made up of over 50% foreign-born residents. Fashion conscious, yet cost conscious, Urban Melting Pot residents love to shop. Macy’s is a favorite but they also shop at other upscale retailers, as well as warehouse/club stores, especially for clothes and jewelry.

When we mapped these lifestyle segments, taking into account the median income of each segment and their various characteristics, what jumped out at us immediately was the significant mismatch between the merchandise mix and the residential market. This data confirmed what many stakeholders - and a consumer survey - had told us, that Steinway Street was inadequately serving the local market. Not only was the tenant mix stale and in need of fresh retail offerings, but the current mix was actually undermining the success of street. In seeking new retailers, we clearly outlined a strategy for our client that included a focus on retailers whose price point was moderate (not cheap) and offerings that were a mix of contemporary and trendy (not conservative). As part of our exercise, we also scanned the local market and used our own growing list of New York based regional businesses to suggest over a dozen retailers that fit this profile and were located in similar urban markets. Moving forward, the low vacancy on the street will require significant partnership with property owners to help them understand the importance of retail mix and to ensure that they fill spaces with appropriate retailers as vacancies come up.

Grand Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn: A Tale of Two Customers
Grand Street is a very different animal. What we found after mapping the residents in the community is that there are two kinds of customers with very different needs and expectations. The first is a low-income resident who resides in public housing. The second is a young artist or professional - again back to that "trendsetter" lifestyle segment. These two customers have some overlapping needs but not not many, making it challenging for retailers to meet this set of divergent expectations. Our stakeholder interviews also bore this out. Some retailers reported struggling to meet the needs of both kinds of customers and were nervous about cultivating a higher end look or merchandise offering for fear of losing their core customer base.

Another interesting element to this analysis was spatial. When we looked at a map of the district, it was clear that one end of the street met the "high rise renter" needs, while the other end of the street meets the "trendsetter" needs. Of course, our retail recommendations included a block by block strategy that recognized the distinct differences in these customers and the desire of certain retailers to locate on certain blocks on the street.

We are excited to share this with our followers and would love feedback and thoughts! This tool is very much a work in progress - but we hope you enjoy the thinking behind it!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Can Commercial Districts play the Social Media game?

It is not uncommon to see social media handled poorly by business improvement district organizations. I follow lots of twitter accounts and facebook pages, and I often see posts related to the organization or staff, but little that might compel customer visits...the real reason the organization is in business to begin with! When using social media, it's always helpful to remember exactly who your audience is and what value add you are offering them. Your twitter feed should not be about promoting your work (like anything, there are some exceptions of course), it should primarily be about promoting the businesses and the activities you sponsor that are intended to drive visitation to your district. There is a fine distinction here that makes all the difference.

As many of you know, I often look to what the Shopping Center Industry is doing to cull ideas. The way I see it, if Shopping Centers spend their resources testing ideas to attract shoppers to their stores - we might as well learn something from it and save the hassle of having to reinvent the wheel. To that end, the August issue of Shopping Centers Today had a great feature on the changing role of social media and offered two innovative ways that shopping centers have leveraged “followers” online...see below and enjoy! 

Growing your twitter with "Follow Friday's"
Miracle Mile Follow Friday Billboard
The Miracle Mile Shops in Las Vegas hosts “Follow Fridays,” during which the Twitter profiles six randomly chosen followers of the Miracle Mile’s Twitter handle are displayed on the mall’s LED screens on the Las Vegas Strip. Every Friday, @MiracleMileLV sees an increase in Twitter followers inspired by the opportunity to see their name on the big screen. In less than a year since its inception, the “Follow Friday” campaign has helped the Miracle Mile shops gain 64% more Twitter followers and 51% more Facebook fans.

Get in on the Competition Trend..."Love It of Lose It" Campaign
Vancouver mall Metropolis at Metrotown’s “Love It or Lose It” campaign encourage people to upload pictures of themselves in different outfits to the mall’s Facebook page, where other fans could vote on which people’s outfits they like best—and worst.   At the end of the four-week campaign, users with the most “love it” votes received mall gift cards for a shopping spree, while users with the most “lose it” votes also received mall gift cards for a shopping spree—and a free hair makeover and style consultation. Shoppers were not the only winners—Metropolis at Metrotown’s Facebook page drew 10,500 visits, 41,000 page views, and the fan base grew by 17%.

Summer Associate Nicole Leighton contributed to this article.