at the May Breakfast Meeting.
NAIOP GA President, Dwight Bell, Cannon Equities; John Rooker, Rooker; Jim Irwin, New City; Mark Toro, North American Properties; NAIOP GA VP Programs, Caroline Nolen, Cushman & Wakefield; Kris Miller, Ackerman & Co.
“Leveraging Location and Creativity for Successful Development”
Kris Miller, Ackerman & Co., moderated and started the conversation talking about innovation. Most in our industry don’t have the luxury of being creative and innovative, but when we can – the payoff is huge. Here’s what our panelists had to say:
Mark Toro, North American Properties:
- Even more important than the “hardware” in his developments is the “software”.
- At Atlantic Station, he spent time reprogramming and working on the software aspect to bring in energy and activity to the development.
- Avalon was his ground-up development opportunity, and he again focused on social media, programs and ultimately being an energy mecca.
- Colony Square: He now wants to make it Midtown’s living room, by making it a public space. If the backyard is Piedmont Park, Colony Square can be the living room. With so much energy in Midtown, he needed to pull it into the development.
Jim Irwin, New City:
- Jim brought up that the city is experiencing “self-selected densification” – as is the case with Avalon, Colony Square and his development.
- Working on Ponce City Market, he became very familiar with all aspects of Old Fourth Ward.
- Kroger noticed all of the activity happening around it, but it was being left behind.
- Jim agreed that it wasn’t just about the physical structure, it’s about experience.
- He thinks people want to see an alignment between where they live, work, shop, play, etc.
- He mentioned 725 Ponce saw the Atlanta BeltLine as its front door, which was interesting; considering Toro called Piedmont Park Colony Square’s backyard.
- They’re right below $400/sf development.
- Of course, they all agreed the BeltLine was transforming the city.
- Even though experience is king, the metrics of the developments still matter a great deal.
John Rooker, Rooker:
- Regional Malls were just no longer a destination.
- Shannon Mall had been shut down for about 3 years already, though declining for longer, when Rooker came on board.
- He thought it was a perfect location for industrial.
- The mall was previously an economic driver for Union City, so he wanted to uphold that moving forward.
- A few film industry guys took him to lunch one day, which launched three buildings being developed specifically for the film industry; one being the largest purpose-built sound stage in North America.
- Understanding the film business was most time consuming during the project, but he had to in order to create this experience.
- He essentially created a new community in an existing community, and he’s now seeing restaurants and other industries coming back to life in the area.
- He had to be ultimately flexible as far as creating these buildings for the film industry, and he tried to always answer yes.
While you must have your metrics and building “bones” together, focusing on the software, programming and experience factor of your development will allow you to creatively create a destination and better “place,” to which tenants and visitors will flock.