NEW YORK CITY-It has worked for him, and it can work for other retail developers. That was the message Earvin “Magic” Johnson had for attendees here at the International Council of Shopping Centers New York National Conference regarding the development of shopping venues in urban areas.

The basketball hall-of-famer and former point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers has made headway into inner-city markets through Johnson Development Corp., of which he is chairman and CEO. The Beverly Hills, CA-based firm has built mixed-use centers and operates 117 Starbucks franchises, six movie theaters, 12 24-Hour Fitness Clubs and 32 Burger Kings, as well as various other ventures.

What most developers don’t understand is that there is $1.6 trillion of spending power in urban and minority communities, Johnson said. “We’ve got the spending power, and we’ve got fewer options,” he said. “What urban America wants is quality and big brands to come into our community.”

Tips that Johnson offered for developers wanting to break into urban areas include finding a local development partner, listening to community leaders for feedback and investing in charities or other local organizations. “You have to talk to your community and find out what they want,” he said. “Just don’t come to take money and not leave any money.”

Johnson said there is still time for developers to break into urban markets, but they had better hurry because those areas’ demand and spending power are no longer a secret. “If you’re not on the front end of this change, it’s going to be hard for you to catch up,” he said. “Minorities are waiting on you.”

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