Mayors Address International Council of Shopping Centers Convention
By Judy Sheahan
Five Mayors addressed an audience of the nationís leading retailers and developers on public-private partnerships in retail development. The panel took place in Las Vegas last week at the annual International Council of Shopping Centers Meeting (ICSC)óa convention that drew over 28,000 people this year. The mayors used the session to explain how cities were untapped markets of potential retail opportunities. Panelists included Mayors Sharon Sayles Belton of Minneapolis, Tom Murphy of Pittsburgh, Preston Daniels of Des Moines, Jerry Brown of Oakland and Ron Kirk of Dallas, all of whom offered their views on retail in their cities and what their city offered to potential developers.
The following are summaries of various comments by the mayoral panelists:
Mayor Murphy told the group that since no developer seemed willing to touch many of his brownfield properties, he had to take on the role of developer himself. "We gathered $100 million in public and private funds to be used to redevelop the City of Pittsburgh which has resulted in over $4 billion in additional investment", Mayor Murphy stated. "The City," said Murphy, "has used some of that money to acquire and cleanup properties to make it ready for redevelopment since no one else was willing to take on that risk." Murphy stressed that one of the greatest strengths of a city was its diversity and how retail developers had to incorporate that diversity into their plans. "You can not simply take the same model that works in a suburb and place it in a city and expect it to work," Murphy said, "you need to incorporate the diversity of the neighborhood into your plan in order to make it a success."
"We are selling Minneapolis as a 24-hour city so that we can provide opportunities that the suburban malls canít", says Mayor Sayles Belton. As an example she pointed out that the City does not consider the famous Mall of America as competition as much as it is as an asset to the entire region. "We tell everybody that they can shop at the Mall as long as they come back to Minneapolis to eat at our restaurants, go to our nightclubs, and stay at our hotels," Mayor Sayles Belton said. This strategy, along with increasing Minneapolisís housing stock, provides many opportunities for retailers to serve a large population. "Iím looking to provide my citizens with the basic services they need such as grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, dry cleaning, and shoe repair stores, and there is money to be made by any retailer willing to locate in the city," she said.
Oakland, located between San Francisco and Berkley, has a population of 400,000 and so would provide any retailer with a marvelous opportunity to sell their products. Despite these conditions, Mayor Brown said that only three major retailers were located in his city. He pointed out several changes in Oaklandís environment that make the area more attractive for development: reduction in crime, a mass transit system that links to San Francisco, the increased traffic congestion throughout Northern California that is encouraging people to move closer to major metropolitan areas such as his, and the relatively low cost of retail space in his city. "Iím telling you not to miss the boat on this oneÖ the time to locate in Oakland is now," Mayor Brown said.
Mayor Daniels, understanding the difficulties that are sometimes faced by developers who are interested in locating in a city, has made it a goal of his city to make the system as streamlined as possible. In addition to a four-week turnaround goal on permits, the City has assembled properties and has developed their own strategic plan for the types of development that they would like to see happen. "Before, we would simply ask a retailer or developer to come to our city," Mayor Daniels said, "now we realize that it helps the process if we have a well laid out plan with the land ready to go."
Mayor Kirk told the audience that as Mayors they all realized that there were challenges for developersó like crime or workforce availabilityó in locating in inner city neighborhoods. He pointed out, however, that these neighborhoods were hugely underserved by retailers and that money could be made. He did warn potential retailers that they had to provide quality products if their store was going to be successful. "These people arenít fools; you canít give people poor quality products in their store when they know they can go to the other side of town and get better quality products," he said. Mayor Kirk gave this assurance to retailers interested in locating in a city, "Weíre all here as Mayors to sell you our cities, to encourage you to locate in our neighborhoods, and we will all work with you to make sure that it happens."
The Mayor also thanked the ICSC leadership for their strong commitment in working with the Conference of Mayors on the issue of internet taxation. He gave special thanks to both Bill McCabe, Chairman of ICSC who spoke at the Conference of Mayors annual meeting in New Orleans and to John Riordan, President of ICSC. Mayor Kirk strongly encouraged the meeting participants to contact their members of Congress to explain to them the importance of preventing internet retail companies from having an unfair advantage over main street stores. "You need to remind Congress," said Mayor Kirk, "about what your stores do for our communities. You support our symphonies, our little leagues, our job base and our park." "That commitment and value to our communities," he continued, "needs to be recognized."