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Survival of the Varied

Once upon a time, shoppers knew that if they wanted to relax and shop at specialty and department stores, they would need to visit the local mall. For running to Target, they would visit their local power center. And if they wanted to go to the movies, they would go to a movie theater nowhere near other consumer attractions.

As consumers become busier, more sophisticated and more aware, they demand that their shopping centers offer choices: Traditional malls aren't convenient or speedy enough for shoppers in a hurry. Power centers lack the food or entertainment options a family needs.

Savvy retail developers are responding to these new demands with one-stop hybrid centers. They comprise all the options — shopping, dining, entertainment — consumers would want in one critical-mass location. By giving customers a choice to quickly pull up to a destination store, or to enjoy the dinner and movie, or browse at specialty stores, everyone wins. Tenants in these hybrid centers are experiencing phenomenal success: While a typically healthy mall welcomed about 9 million visitors last year, Vestar's Desert Ridge Marketplace, our open-air hybrid in Phoenix, brought in 19 million.

One reason these new hybrid centers are outdrawing traditional malls is the combination of power-center convenience and entertainment with specialty shopping, which, carefully selected, fits the age and income trends in a given trade area. Design is a further attraction: These newer centers have a much higher level of architecture than the old power centers, and the common-area amenities are superior to traditional malls.

For example, Vestar's District at Tustin Legacy, under development in Orange County, Calif., will feature traditional power center tenants, specialty lifestyle retailers, entertainment venues and restaurants and cafes. Leisure destinations and specialty retailers in the center of the project are intertwined by attractive pedestrian walkways and interactive public spaces that include outdoor living areas with fireplaces and water features; traditional power-center retailers, such as Target and Costco, will be located on the perimeter. At our Tempe Marketplace in Tempe, Ariz., we're including elements such as dramatic lights and lasers, as well as pop-jet fountains and misters.

With each new hybrid center, design takes another step forward so shoppers have a more upscale and unique experience than the last. They set the benchmark in retail for the next decade.

Come for the architecture, or for the variety, more trips are made to hybrid centers per month than older-format retail properties. The ability to offer tenants such tremendous sales potential allows developers to practically hand-pick their most desired tenant mix.

These factors make for truly cutting-edge centers. And it allows them to stay that way: Hybrids' open-air format makes it easier to adapt particular pieces one at a time, modifying a property as industry trends change and shoppers' tastes continue to evolve.

President of Vestar Development Co.

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