Shopping Centers Today

SEP 2018

Shopping Centers Today is the news magazine of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)

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Page 26 of 59

S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 8 / S C T 27 Bongiorno describes this as the most groundbreaking and distinctive phase of the project's nearly 20-year life span. Easton Town Center was originally conceived as a mixed- use community with multiple uses, but only now are things finally starting to reach fruition, she says. "For the first phase, no one had done anything like it before, so they were nervous about how much office would be viable to mix in there, and they were nervous about residential," said Bongiorno. "Having that residential incorporated into the town center makes it that much more of a real town, and you have a captive audience living there. People want to live there — it's fun." The excitement Bongiorno describes is almost tangible, and others share it. "The urban district is a natural extension to Easton Town Center that has a very metropolitan look and feel, with a unique collection of new and exciting tenants," said Anne Mastin, executive vice president of retail real estate for Steiner & Associates, which co-developed the center with L Brands (formerly Limited Brands) and The Georgetown Co. "We are sensitive to keeping our current customers engaged and eager for what's to come, while also building and revving up our retail and entertainment options for the next generation of shoppers." Just now M&A is working on plans for an office building, a parking garage and a hotel. "We do a lot of studies that never happen, so there is always something brewing, some idea that [CEO Yaromir Steiner] has to make better," said Bongiorno. "He is always trying to improve Easton and make it better and keep it evolving so it is fresh. And it is a really fun project to work on, because we are always getting to study some crazy things." A constant focus on forward thinking keeps the work on Easton Town Center interesting, Bongiorno says. "One of our main tenets at Easton is maximum flexibility in order to anticipate the unknown," she said. "We never want to box ourselves into a corner for future growth and densification, so we get very creative." M&A employs a six-member team for the Easton Town Center project alone, including a dedicated code specialist who works with the city to ensure adherence to building codes. "The uses other than the retail have to be implemented in a way that they have their own identity and an intuitive way to access them, but they can't negatively impact the retail, because the retail is number one," said Bongiorno. "There are just different considerations, but the number-one goal is to maintain that retail frontage that is visible and has the mass of other retailers around it for foot traffic and cross-shopping." In many ways Easton Town Center helped set the tone for many of the open-air retail and mixed-use developments that have followed, observes Bongiorno. "Retailers are more open to the concept now, and they understand it better," she said. "At Easton, it used to take a lot of work to get them to do something over the top with their branding, and now they get that as well and are a little easier to work with." Entertainment, too, has been a consistent focus at Easton Town Center. A 30,000-square-foot Legoland Discovery Center now under construction is a case in point. "That is going to be a huge draw in keeping the entertainment uses strong, and that is something Easton has always done so well." Perhaps adaptability is the key lesson to draw from Easton Town Center's evolutionary journey. "What Easton does so successfully is [to] continually evolve, and there is always a reason to go there," said Bongiorno. "It is still my favorite place to go shopping, and 20 years later I am never sick of it. I don't remember a time [here] when change wasn't a constant." n TIMELINE 1999 The South District opens 2001 The North 'Fashion' District opens 2015 The Easton Gateway expansion completed, adding 500,000 square feet of mixed uses 2017 Plans announced to build the Urban District with residences and a hotel 2018 Renovation on station building completed Today Easton Town Center offers 1.7 million square feet of retail and entertainment

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