The explosion of the lifestyle center type of shopping destination is the result of consumers wanting the combination of popular retail concepts that offer fashion and home related merchandise in conjunction with dining and entertainment while offering drive-up convenience within their neighborhood. Finding the “vision” for a specific lifestyle center relies on the expertise and understanding of the specific location, demographics of the trade area, consumer needs, etc.
Weingarten’s Village Arcade, a top tier open-air shopping destination in Houston, is located in the Rice Village District which encompasses a 16-block shopping area dating back to the 1930’s. In the mid 1980’s, Rice University assembled 9.7 acres in the Rice Village with the strategic mission of planning for the University’s long term future expansion. For years, the site was not reaching its potential sitting fairly idle with mostly “mom & pop” type retailers operating on the property. Weingarten was fortunate to be selected by Rice University to design a shopping center that would meet the needs of the community and exceed the quality of shopping center and financial objectives that Rice envisioned. Under the direction and leadership of Patty Bender, Executive Vice President of Leasing, the vision for Village Arcade began.
When planning a project like Village Arcade, the first objective is to prove the demand for additional retailers from the local and regional customer base. After analyzing the demographics of the trade area consumers, a developer can start to see the vision of the targeted merchandise mix by identifying a list of well-suited tenants to pursue. The dense, affluent and highly educated consumer base along with the lack of lifestyle center south of US Hwy 59 supported the idea for another lifestyle center inside the 610 loop. Highland Village and River Oaks Shopping Center, both of which are located north of US Hwy 59, have been very successful and historically maintained 95%+ leased which further supports our idea to develop a lifestyle center in the Rice University area.
The process of securing leases with retailers for a lifestyle center happens in many ways which include: the landlord seeking out specific retailers that would be well suited in this proposed development while taking into consideration distance from their other units; tenants seek out opportunities that fit into their growth strategy; brokers and consultants work with tenants and landlords to identify opportunities for both parties involved, etc. Co-tenancy preferences plays a large role in how the merchandise mix is determined. For example, if Banana Republic is the only retailer mentioned, more than likely you could name at least five other retailers that would likely be great co-tenants. The Village Arcade boasts an enviable merchandise mix which currently includes: Banana Republic, Victoria’s Secret, Ann Taylor, Gap, Baby Gap, Le Creuset, Express, Loft, Talbots, Chico’s, M.A.C Cosmetics, Sephora, and White House | Black Market to name a few, as well as having the largest day spa in Houston, being Beautique Day Spa & Salon. Even though most lifestyle centers focus on national/regional retailers, landlords love to have local merchants in order to provide a unique retail offering.
The job does not end when the center is open for business with little to no vacancy, as there will always be changes with tenants closing stores, relocating, etc. A sophisticated landlord will continually monitor the demographics of the trade area, store sales and retail trends to ensure the center benefits from the most successful tenant mix possible at any given time.
Village Arcade showcases Weingarten Realty’s ability to visualize a successful lifestyle center from conception through the completion of the development while continually making improvements as consumers, retailers and communities evolve.