Shopping Center Business

MAY 2016

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RAMCO-GERSHENSON 306 • SHOPPING CENTER BUSINESS • May 2016 from our properties," Gershenson says. "By adding Nordstrom Rack and The Container Store, we are ensuring the long- term success of the property." DENSIFICATION Looking to the next five years, RPT has selected three major focus areas as part of its strategy. The first, densification, is the ability to add more retail — or potentially other uses, like office — to existing shop- ping centers without adding more land. "As the need for parking at shopping centers has reduced, it has freed up tre- mendous space for us to add on to our large centers in a relatively risk-adverse way," Gershenson says. "It not only allows us to grow our income by adding these ad- ditional uses, but it significantly increases our net asset value too." RPT is currently working on signifi- cant densification projects at three of its shopping centers, including the recently acquired Front Range Village in Fort Col- lins, Colorado. PLACE-MAKING RPT's second focus area is place-mak- ing. The organization looked at how tra- ditional malls and lifestyle centers had, for years, been creating more than simply a shopping environment — they were creat- ing destinations. From offering exciting amenities to popular restaurants to attrac- tive common areas, malls were enticing consumers to spend their full days at the property. "We are incorporating a similar con- cept at our regional dominant community centers," Gershenson says. "We are devel- oping common areas where shoppers can sit and relax. We want it to be a pleasant environment where they want to linger. And, we want to have spaces where we can host events that build loyalty to the center." PROGRAMMING By being able to offer events, like mov- ies and concerts, RPT's shopping centers are becoming a more essential and vibrant part of their communities, which is exact- ly what Gershenson wants. "Our third focus area, programming, is all about building customer loyalty and bringing people in the community to the center for more than just shopping," he says. Hendershot, who has spearheaded the REIT's programming concept, says the goal is to anchor RPT's properties in their communities to further ensure the long- term viability of our shopping centers. "Our centers are primarily large, dy- namic community centers that serve a cross-section of everyday consumers as well as a larger trade area seeking our spe- cialty tenants," Hendershot says. "Know- ing how important they are to the daily life of their communities, we wanted to put in place programming that has local significance and regional appeal." COMMUNITY FIRST With that idea in mind, RPT trade- marked its shopping center programming as Community First Signature Events. Community First Signature Events en- compass 14 one-of-a-kind programs that are unique to RPT and are tailored to each community. One program called Your Walking Club, which launched at the beginning of 2015, has seen particular success at the Bridge- water Falls shopping center in Hamilton, Ohio. There, RPT has partnered with the local YMCA to lead a one-mile walk at the property twice a week that takes partic- ipants on a path directly in front of the retail stores. "This is a healthy approach to bring people to our property," Hendershot says. "It benefits the people in our com- munities, and it benefits our retailers." Participants sign up online to join the walk, and each registrant gets a T-shirt. RPT uses the data participants enter on- line to better understand them as poten- tial consumers. Thanks to the program, Bridgewater Falls is getting 300 additional visitors — translating to 300 potential consumers — from each walk. Overall, Hendershot estimates that RPT's Community First Signature Events have brought in 30,000 independent visits to its properties since implemented last year. "We believe this is leading to significant benefits, and we're working with our re- tailers to track how these programs are leading to increased sales," she says. STRENGTHENED LEADERSHIP Also as part of its long-term growth strategy, RPT has added a few new faces to its leadership team. Geoffrey Bedro- sian joined as chief financial officer, and John Hendrickson joined as chief operat- ing officer earlier this year. "I'm very excited about the C-Suite we have now," Gershenson says. "Geoff comes with a background in capital markets and brings with him the ability to look at our capital structure. His ex- perience allows us to continue to fund the capital needs of our existing assets as well as selective acquisitions. John has brought with him ideas that we've already instituted and are helping drive operating income. With his vision, we're becoming a stronger, integrated team." With a new leadership team in place and a clear vision for the future, RPT is ready to take on the next 20 years. "We're very proud of how we're ap- proaching our shopping centers today," Gershenson says. "Our belief is that we have to be connected to the community where we operate, but we also need to be able to show consistency in growing our income and driving value. If we do that, we'll be incredibly successful." SCB Events, like this concert at Woodbury Lakes in Woodbury, Minnesota, are what helps Ramco- Gershenson tie its centers to the community, and create a sense of place.

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