Shopping Center Business

MAY 2018

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RETAIL EVOLUTION 80 • SHOPPING CENTER BUSINESS • May 2018 OXÍGENO SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA I n Costa Rica, Cuestamoras Urbanismo, one of Central America's main developer/operators, is developing Oxíge- no, a mixed-use center designed around the way residents live, work and play. Beyond retail center and beyond lifestyle center, the project is meant to be incorporated into the daily lives of residents, much the way a park might be incorporated into a community. The first phase of the 2 million-square-foot project will be divided into four districts that each feature a design theme and separate activities. The districts are connected via pathways and a series of outdoor leisure and sport spaces including a park opened to the community. One of the areas will focus on live entertainment, featuring musical performances, special events and activities and programmable media. The second district will focus on a healthy, active lifestyle with activities such as climbing walls, a zip line, a swimming pool, and an extreme sports park. The third area will focus on the center's retail, art and dining offerings, which will reflect the healthy, active and sustainable activities at the center. The fourth district will focus on children's activities and entertainment, featuring dynamic play zones, youth workshops and education activities. While retail, dining and entertainment are a part of Oxígeno, they aren't the focus, or the sole anchors. "We're developing a project where retail is part of a larger concept, well beyond a shopping center with entertainment," says Hernan Martinez, CEO of the center's developer, Cues- tamoras Urbanismo. The group has brought in JERDE Part- nership to design the project. Construction is underway, with plans to open later this year. A number of entertainment and children's education tenants have signed to the project, as well as local and international restaurants and licensed apparel retailers including Kidzania, Cinemark, P.F. Chang's, T.G.I. Friday, Nike and Timberland. Ample areas for the practice of sports are present including a 1-mile running track, a full gym and a swimming pool. With so- cial and digital media a large part of the dynamic of the project, Oxígeno will have a lot of digital signage and programming. As part of that strategy, the project will have its own television and radio station and a larger dynamic digital platform. The physical design of the project itself is dynamic, with many areas able to change appearance within a short time span. The Central Plaza, for example, can go from being a showplace to a tennis venue to a fairground to a basketball venue in a short amount of time. As such, it can accommodate a wide variety of programming during all parts of the year due to the warm, tropical climate. A system of stage lighting, audio, cameras and digital media allow the space to change within hours, creating the opportunity for most any type of event. The design of the Oxígeno is different than any shopping center, with each district taking on a different look and feel. Cuestamoras Urbanismo has also turned the idea of a shop- ping center into the idea of a "human playground," making the daily attractions like lifestyle activities and constantly changing programming the centerpieces of the project, versus stores. The project is also centered around the lifestyle of the area, includ- ing its demographics and psychographics — middle income, active families who are seeking a safe place to be active and find new activities. The specific area where Oxígeno is being developed, the Heredia neighborhood of San Jose, is under- served for entertainment and retail. "Cuestamoras is leveraging its expertise as a sophisticated op- erator and retailer," says Martinez, who adds that Oxígeno will be programmed with education, civic, sports, retail, adventure activities and other uses year-round. Oxígeno is not meant to be a regional draw; it is meant to be specific for a single market. Martinez says that the company did not even consider the full market of San Jose, which has a metro population of greater than 2 million people. It is also not meant to be a tourist draw, since San Jose is far from the coastal areas most tourists visit; it is built for residents. With success on the forefront in Costa Rica, Cuestamoras Urbanismo is seeking sites in the U.S., to develop similar cen- ters. Martinez, who has more than 20 years of development experience in the U.S., believes that the best development op- portunities for the company will be redevelopment opportuni- ties — perhaps on sites of older regional malls — in secondary and tertiary markets, where there is a strong need to recreate a vibrant community hub. As it plans its entry to the U.S., the com- pany is being highly selective about the markets it is considering. "We are following a very thoughtful, well designed strategy, and we bring with us the know-how, strict methodology and financial resources to implement it." he says. — Randall Shearin Ultimately 2 million square feet at full build-out, Oxígeno will be an active local destination and include uses like fitness, education and entertainment, as well as retail and dining. Credit: JERDE Partnership

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