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Retail Traffic

EXPERT Q&A: A fad? No way.

Retail Traffic is launching a new feature. Every month we will pick the brain of an industry expert on a pressing topic.

This month, we took questions we posed to our mixed-use roundtable (see page 42) and selected those of Yaromir Steiner, founder and president of Steiner + Associates, to run as our inaugural Q&A.

Most mixed-use developments incorporate retail and residential, and to a lesser extent office and hotel space. What other uses are becoming more prevalent?

We have seen a courthouse, an aquarium, a public library, higher education facilities, etc. We are not seeing a dominant trend. However the openness to these uses is a very positive step in itself.

What demographics are mixed-use projects targeting?

A mixed-use project is conceivable for any demographic base. However we can concede that these types of projects being a novelty, they tend to be initiated in the strongest demographics initially. But this will evolve.

Will more retail developers and architects try to take on all aspects of mixed-use projects?

We believe this will be the ultimate and correct approach. The excessive specialization of the developers and designers by real estate type was an unintended consequence of urban planning solely by zoning.

How is the mixed-use trend impacting project design?

It is a return to basics where cookie-cutter solutions do not work as well. This creates opportunities for more vibrant and exciting environments created with intelligence rather than formulaic following of patterns.

Do developers want to retain ownership stakes in what they are building?

As in a true city with its multiplicity of ownerships a modus vivendi will emerge. For one developer to try to control systematically all real estate uses in a large scale across multiple use types may create sclerosis. However, the control of the retail component across multiple building blocks and under diverse uses will remain critical to success in order to provide a balanced merchandising.

Are more people opting to build the residential units as condominiums or for-rent units?

We see both types. When the units are attached or on top of retail, so far we have preferred rental units owned by us. We prefer to avoid multiple owners with small equities in largely retail projects. However, in projects where the residential is the dominant component we would definitely consider condominiums.

Retail developers seem to be pioneering mixed-use development with other disciplines following that lead. Is that your assessment?

This is correct. I think this is for two reasons: A strong retail component is the most effective way to create a place versus residential or offices. Also, the retail is more complex to deliver especially at a large scale.

Is mixed use a fad?

The mixed use is a return to basic urban design principles, it is certainly not a fad. We believe instead that over the next 25 years, the single-use retail environments will be a disappearing product type. It is the elimination of the mixed-use urban and suburban hubs in the second half of the last century that was a misguided fad!

CEO of Ohio-based Steiner + Associates where he oversees the company's retail and mixed-use development, leasing and management functions

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