Shopping Center Business

MAY 2016

Shopping Center Business is the leading monthly business magazine for the retail real estate industry.

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COMPANY PROFILE 206 • SHOPPING CENTER BUSINESS • May 2016 ate safe places that have all the bells and whistles that the sophisticated shopper is looking for," Wilson says. Today, people buy things using their phones or computers and have the pur- chases delivered to their front doors the next day," Wilson says. "How do I get them to come out and spend time at my retail project? They used to go to the mall as an outlet for the day. Your grandmother would take you to the mall to eat lunch; she might buy you some shoes, and buy your Easter attire. When I was a kid, that was a big day for us. Now, parents just shop online and have it sent to the house. How do I get them to come to my proj- ect, to stay, to make it a day and make it a place where they take friends and family? It was a little easier before. Now, people have so many other options that are so easy and so fast. You have to make your project different so they want to be there and hang out and where they fit in and feel comfortable. You can build a power center — and those are successful — but when you get into these town centers and urban projects, you have to be creative on how it all comes together." STRATEGIC GROWTH JWA's strategy varies based on the mar- ket. The company still owns and manages many projects that it developed — Wilson estimates that they manage approximate- ly 7 million square feet currently. In other projects, they've partnered with REITs and other institutional inves- tors. For example, JWA sold a 50 percent interest of Riverchase Galleria in Birming- ham to GGP. The company co-developed The Shoppes at River Crossing in Macon, Georgia, in a 50/50 venture with GGP. "When we've sold portions of proj- ects to a REIT, they have to manage it. It just works better because they have all the reporting they have to do as a public company. GGP is our partner in several deals and we understand why they have to manage the properties. In a lot of these ar- rangements, we do participate in the man- agement because we are very active. All of the REIT guys have been excellent to work with, and as a partner, they respond to our questions and thoughts because we bring value to the table. We like to plug into their knowledge and learn what they see around the world. We like to listen to what they have to say because they see so much." JWA is perhaps best known for devel- oping Riverchase Galleria in Birmingham, Alabama. "The mall is 30 years old and doing great," Wilson says. "We still own 50 percent of the retail — we are partners with GGP — and we own 100 percent of the office, as well as interest in the hotel, the Hyatt Regency/Wynfrey Hotel. We spent a lot of money on the mall; it is still a flagship property for us. It is one of those that keeps on going. We've had department stores leave but we've been able to fill the spaces. Macy's moved, and we added Von Maur. We lost McRae's, we added Forever 21 and Belk Home Store. The office space has stayed leased. A year and a half ago, we brought Hyatt and fully renovated the hotel. The project is still a big part of our lives and it is doing great. It is a great legacy from my father." The company also sells some of the projects it develops. For example, JWA sold the Mall of Louisiana to GGP in 2004. "Back then, the cap rates were so low, and we had a partner that wanted to get out. It was smart for us to sell. We held the property for seven years, and then we sold it. The REITs were growing at that time and were aggressively pursuing top tier properties." He adds, "We decided to take the money and put it on a shelf. During the recession, that is one of the things that allowed us to keep our good people. We might not have been as busy as we would have liked, but we knew we'd come out of this at some point and we wanted to keep our team together. I kept my construction team, my leasing team, my accounting team and all my folks. They know every- body in the business and it is starting to pay off for us. Now, we are looking at building our portfolio back and we're in- vesting in some new and exciting projects, all evidence of the different times and dif- ferent strategies we go through." SCB Today, Jim Wilson III (left) serves as chairman and CEO of JWA, and his brother Will Wilson (right) serves as president. Both grew up in the business, learning it from their father, company founder and commercial real estate icon Jim Wilson, Jr. "Now, we are looking at building our portfolio back and we're investing in some new and exciting projects, all evidence of the different times and different strategies we go through." —Will Wilson

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