I went to MAPIC, the international retail property market event last november.
About 800 exhibitors, mostly Real Estate companies specialized in retail and retailers gathered in Cannes in mid-November. They come from all parts of the world to show their new projects, to mingle, discuss and learn about new trends. The theme of the year was “mixed uses “, indicating that the traditional shopping mall where families went to shop and to have a hamburger is out of time.
Had an interesting chat with the new CEO of City Con, a Nordic, originally Finnish owner of commercial real estate.
Scott Ball is an energetic American, passionate about creating good places for people to enjoy their daily life.
– The word “shopping mall” is completely outdated. It is not the shopping that generates footfall these days, he says.
What people really need and want is services and places to meet.
– If we can provide that, the retailers will benefit from the footfall.
City Con focuses on commercial real estate close to traffic hubs like train- and metro stations, busstations, places where people pass on a daily basis.
The company grows by acquisition which means trey have bought a lot of property and sold what is not for them to keep. Shopping Centers situated outside the cities with no or poor access to public transportation are on their selling list.
More than just selling
When I attended my first MAPIC in 2016, sustainability was not an issue. Companies I met were all talking about how to create places where people wanted to stay for hours and spend their money on luxury goods, entertainment and more or less fancy meals. Of course that is still on the agenda, but today it has to be done sustainably.
The whole concept of mixed uses is founded on an idea of sustainability. The consumer should find everything under one roof, with easy access from the metro, close to home.
That is why specialists in commercial retail, like Unibail Rodamco Westfield and City Con engage themselves in housing-projects. One of my friends from youth dreamed of living in a shopping mall, now her dream can come true – flats and even small houses are built on top of malls.
Light from the North?
Lars -Åke Tollemark, Managing Director Nordic, Unibail–Rodamco–Westfield, has for a long time been focused on sustainability.
– In the Nordics we have left the stage of analyzing. We don’t discuss what to do, or if we need to do things – we take action. It’s a natural thing to save energy, to use sustainable materials, to have bees on the roof etc.
Being “environmental friendly ” is not considered a cost in the long run, he claims – saving energy is saving money, sustainable materials can be used and reused.
A place to thrive
But sustainability in not only about the environment and economy. Real sustainability is also social. Owners of retail property need to create places, where people can meet.
Annika Brommesson, a Swedish pioneer in Neurorachitecture, explains what makes people thrive, and what alienates:
– People need frequent, casual, short interactions that eases the struggles of life, and give a sense of belonging. Human beings also need to feel protected, to be able to orient in the surroundings. Why? Because the human brain has not developed much since we lived in the savanns of Africa 40 000 years ago. If we do not understand what we see, we can not detect a threat or an enemy. If we do not have landmarks, it’s difficult to find what we need.
Placemaking is the word. Annika Brommesson claims that many retail property owners are lousy placemakers. That is why so many customers fail to find their way through the mall.
– A shopping mall is like a town. But many malls feels like a town where all the houses are alike and the streets have no names. You try to find your way by using the shops as landmarks. “The Italian shoe shop lies next to H&M” But the next time you get there H&M has moved and the shoe shop seems to have vanished.
And the customer leaves frustrated, exhausted.
The BREEAM-certification, the solar panels and bees on the roof does not mean at thing to her in that moment, and she does not feel like having an ecofriendly lunch.
Hopes for next MAPIC
Will MAPIC 2020 focus on all aspects of sustainability ? Will peacemaking be a bigger issue? Will there be discussions about consumer-driven economies and how our urge for new things affects the planet? Will we find new ideas on circular economy? I hope so.