Ground Up

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KLNB’s Menick discusses retail in suburban mixed-use

Live work and play developments are popping up in suburbs throughout Maryland.

These projects, such as such as the Merriweather District in Columbia, Towson Row, Greenleigh at Crossroads in eastern Baltimore County, and Metro Center at Owings Mills, aim to compete with the amenity rich environments found in city centers.

Marc A. Menick, president of KLNB, discussed how retailers perform in these settings, what’s needed to make these projects a success, and potential problems these developments face. Menick, based in Washington, spoke on the phone with The Daily Record.

A more detailed version of the conversation is available to subscribers. A question-and-answer piece culled from the interview is slated to run in the print edition on Monday. Below is a lightly-edited version of this part of the conversation.

Adam Bednar, The Daily Record: One of the big trends, particularly in some of the suburban areas, is trying to incorporate the live, work and play environments that are offered in the city (drawing companies and residents), and (suburbs) want to hold on to what they have. So they’re redeveloping themselves to meet this in demand model.

How are retailers doing in those suburban settings that are offering live, work and play with, office, apartments, condos, and retail?

Marc Menick, KLNB: I’d say they’re doing great when they’re planned and developed, and merchandised, animated, activated, whatever you want to call it, appropriately. There’s a lot of times when this term mixed-use has been too forced.

For instance, in order for a developer to get residential zoning on a parcel of land, the local jurisdiction will say it must be mixed-use, therefore it must have retail on the bottom floor for the 100 apartments up above in a place where retail doesn’t really exist, or can’t be appropriately anchored, and then it falls really short.

But when you find developers with the know-how, and how to build that mixed-use, and know how much critical square footage is necessary, or the appropriate anchors, or how to merchandise appropriately. When you get all those factors in play, and you get responsible mixed-use development, it works tremendously well.

Unfortunately, it’s just become such a buzz, and such a must-do, for not only developers, but planners, that it’s often times isn’t executed very well. However, when it is executed well by some of the top development firms, large and small, it’s invaluable and the retailers thrive tremendously.

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