Curtis Nassau of the Lyndhurst office of Ripco Real Estate, at the start of the two-day deal-making conference at the Javits Center.(Photo: Joan Verdon)
Retail space is still in high demand in New Jersey and New York, according to real estate professionals and leasing specialists who gathered this week for the annual International Council of Shopping Centers convention at the Javits Center in Manhattan.
The meeting, known as the “New York Deal Making” session, is just that: two days of meetings and negotiations among landlords, brokers, retailers and other businesses looking to rent space in shopping centers, strip malls and downtowns.
The mood, on the national level and in North Jersey, is optimistic, despite the growth in online spending, retail bankruptcies, and reports that shopping centers and malls are on the verge of extinction.
“Retail’s not dying, it’s in transition,” said Stan Glantz, chairman of the planning committee for the convention and vice president of development and construction for Katz Properties. “It’s responding to technology and being reborn.”
The shopping center council is going on the offense against reports that traditional retail is terminally ill, and has launched a “Shopping for the Truth” media campaign to spread the word that Americans still do most of their shopping in stores, rather than online.
“We’re very, very busy,” said Curtis Nassau, managing director of the Lyndhurst office of Ripco Real Estate Corp. Landlords and tenants at the meeting are showing “they are eager to move deals forward” and to commit to leases and new projects, he said.
“In New Jersey — the whole New York metro market — you have a very dense population with overall very strong incomes, and you’ve got customer ne,” Nassau said. “So at the end of the day, those customers are still shopping. They’re still buying. In the last recession, we never got hit the same way others did, and in this period of transition, we’re still doing deals today,” he said.
Nassau said he is seeing food concepts, especially fast-casual food chains, expanding aggressively, along with new fitness chains and activity centers, such as trampoline jump centers and the IFly indoor sky-diving facility being built on Route 4 on Paramus.
The show, which runs through Thursday, is expected to draw 10,000 attendees.
The American Dream project in the Meadowlands is one of the under-construction projects looking to sign tenants at the show. That complex, under development by the company that also owns two other mega-malls, the Mall of America in Minnesota and the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, recently announced that it plans to build two record-breaking roller coasters, one with the steepest drop and the other that will be the world’s tallest and longest free-spinning coaster.
Though retail is changing as restaurants and “experiential” spaces like movie theaters and gyms replace department stores and other traditional tenants, deal-making experts at the event said good spaces don’t stay empty for long.
Chuck Lanyard, president of The Goldstein Group in Paramus, talking to Jason Samreny, a retail development consultant from Florida. (Photo: Joan Verdon)
“Despite what you hear about retail floundering, in New Jersey that’s not the case,” said Chuck Lanyard, president of the Goldstein Group in Paramus. “Quality space is leasing up, and there’s not a ton of quality space available.”
The Goldstein Group is involved in retail leasing at the The Oaks project in Old Bridge, an example of what many see as the future of retail. It is a mixed-use project that combines retail with 1,300 residential units.
The Goldstein Group booth at the deal making convention (Photo: Joan Verdon)
The Goldstein Group recently added an urban division to meet the growing demand for retail spaces in places like Hoboken and Jersey City, Lanyard said.
Lanyard, who has been going to the show for 25 years, said he is seeing retailers and retail landlords change with the times by adding more experiences to their properties.
“People still want to go to bricks-and-mortar stores, but they have to create the experience to draw people,” he said. “The good news is people still want to go to bricks-and-mortar — maybe at smaller stores, but they still want to kick the tires.”
Matthew Harding, president of Levin Management, which manages 100 properties in the Northeast, including the Paramus Place strip mall on Route 4 and Harmon Meadow in Secaucus, said a pre-holiday survey of Levin Management retail tenants showed local retailers were optimistic about the holiday season and that initial sales have confirmed that optimism.
New Jersey remains a highly desirable location for retailers from around the country who are looking to move into the New York metropolitan area, said Katie Mahon, managing director for the New York tri-state region for real estate firm Cushman Wakefield.
“Jersey’s a huge opportunity,” she said. “A lot of our national tenants have asked us about New Jersey,” Mahon said, and projects that combine residential with retail, such as the Hudson Lights project in Fort Lee, are drawing a lot of interest.