Form strategic partnerships for mixed-use projects

The Boulevard at Lowry project in Denver will combine office and retail. Courtesy Open Studio Architecture

Celeste Tanner
Chief development officer, Confluent Development

In a business where partnership is vitally important, it can be hard to determine which combination of teams is right for a project. Mixed-use is an asset class that requires the right partnership team as these developments bring an array of industries and experiences together. Good partnerships can help drive a successful mixed-use project, especially in the retail concentration where different service offerings demand certain requirements in the design and development. When pursuing mixed-use, it is the retail component that elevates the project from an office or residential development into a destination. As a demand driver for other uses, it is essential that the retail portion of a project fills the right niche for that community and location.

An example of this can be seen in Denver’s The Boulevard at Lowry project, a 200,000-square-foot infill development that will consist of retail, restaurant, office and entertainment space. Strategic partnerships have been crucial in getting this project underway, with several factors coming into consideration to determine the final team.

Diverse expertise and capabilities. Many partnerships are created from longstanding relationships, and while it is important that teams working together reflect likeminded professionalism and values, there are other critical components that make a partnership strategically beneficial for each aspect of a project. Partners that exhibit passion, knowledge and vigor will be essential for working well together throughout the unpredictable development process.

Identifying the roles and responsibilities for each party in the venture early on allows the initial developer to avoid bringing in a partner whose strengths duplicate efforts rather than complement other needs. It also creates a mutual respect and understanding of the fundamental value each party provides to the overall goals of the project.

Selecting partners with diverse expertise expands the resources, knowledge and connections available to the entire project team, with each bringing unique relationships and visions to the final product. Perhaps one partner has the knowledge required for a niche industry but lacks the resources needed to fully execute on development. By including an additional partner that provides strength of resources, the project is fully equipped with both the knowledge and means needed to develop a one-of-a-kind offering.

The partnership on The Boulevard at Lowry redevelopment inspired an evolution in the project’s offerings with the addition of office space. Through varying perspectives and collaboration, the project partners recognized the need for office space in the suburban area and agreed to transform the project and fill this demand in the market. This evolution expanded the development into the mixed-use realm, creating a new vision for the project that, in turn, enhances the retail component as it will create a distinctive energy attracting a different set of retailers than those who may have initially been interested in the area.

Interest for the community at large. By creating partnerships tailored to a single project, the collaboration that comes from differing ideas and approaches can result in a final product that is more distinctive than originally intended. Mixing together each team’s strengths creates a unique perspective for the project, which ultimately benefits the larger community. The project will stand out and deliver a rare offering from other developments previously delivered by single development teams with their own standard “formula.” For example, partners may bring development expertise from differing geographic locations, or may have varied programming strategies based on prior developments. Together, the full team can carefully cultivate an environment vastly distinct from the developments that the community has become accustomed to elsewhere.

Programmed for activity. Retail is viewed as one of the most critical components in a mixed-use development, as it creates a unique environment that extends the length of time that a space is active. This is determined by the mix of tenants that is ultimately leased. It is, therefore, important to select a range of tenants that appeal to people looking for a bustling day crowd or a thriving nightlife scene to draw customers during the day and evening. Retailers (and especially restaurants) will want to understand the traffic patterns for the location. To attract a high-performing mix of retail tenants, it is important to program the space to drive a 15- to 18-hour environment. Again, the retail component is the core of the mixed-use development that will spur this activity, and, in turn, support an enhanced environment for all other users.

For example, employees may work from the office space during the day and opt to join co-workers for dinner in the same development. For mixed-use projects with residential populations nearby, customers may run an errand or grab a coffee. By creating an environment that is operating for more than eight hours per day, the space is established as a destination for customers as they have multiple needs conveniently met in the same place.

Again, selecting the right retail tenants can be enhanced by strong partnerships, as each team will have its own set of relationships that can be mixed to create an experience unparalleled from any other in the market.

Featured in CREJ’s August 2018 Retail Properties Quarterly

Edited by the Colorado Real Estate Journal staff.