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LAS VEGAS-Matching the right combination of retail, housing, office, entertainment and other uses is key to succeeding in the fast-growing world of mixed-use projects, according to panelists at the 2005 ICSC Spring Convention this week. As obvious as that might sound, developers sometimes stray from that advice and end up with projects that perform poorly, according to speakers at the session, which was titled “Big Risks, Big Rewards: Opportunities in Mixed-Use Development and Lessons Learned.”

One of the reasons for having the topic on this year’s ICSC agenda is that mixed-use projects are quickly growing into one of the favorites of developers as well as cities, counties and redevelopment agencies that are promoting either new development or redevelopment. Bryan Myers, president of Laguna Beach, CA-based Nu Quest Ventures, outlined four of the primary types of projects that are being developed as cities, counties and other governmental jurisdictions now encourage mixed-use projects where they once opposed them.

“Communities like mixed-use projects today, but 10 or 15 years ago that was not the case,” commented Myers, who explained that cities and counties with declining tax bases have come to see combined live, work and play developments both as a means of revitalizing communities and as a means of boosting their tax bases.

The four types of projects described by Myers included developments on surplus corporate real estate that corporations sell to private developers or public-private partnerships, government-initiated projects such as those on redevelopment sites, government assets that are sold for development, and military base re-use projects. As popular as the idea of combining housing with other uses has become, Myers said, mixed-use projects require sophisticated planning. “You can’t just plop residential into a business district and expect it to work,” he said.

Myers’ cautionary remarks about the right mix of mixed uses matched those of other speakers on the panel, which was moderated by Alan J. Beaudette, SVP of Lowe Enterprises Real Estate Group in Irvine, CA. Among the points they emphasized was that, since mixed-use projects involve developers with highly varied types of expertise in housing, retail and other product types, each development requires someone with an overview of the entire project and the capacity to “translate” between the different experts.

Although retail is often viewed as the driver of mixed-use projects and is often the most visible facet of a development, the speakers agreed, retail isn’t necessarily the largest component of all mixed-use projects. In fact, retail in some cases is the smallest part of a project in terms of square footage but the most important in terms of the image the development creates and how it is viewed by the public. Even the smallest planning details can be crucial, the speakers pointed out. For example, how a project is lighted at night can have a tremendous impact on how it is perceived by the public, the type of image it projects, how much customer traffic it generates and, ultimately, whether it succeeds or fails.

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