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The current economy mandates that retail developers/owners link their projects with new demand drivers. With many national retail chains shuttering along with the current slowdown regarding expansion from healthier chains, malls and lifestyle concepts as we know them are looking to fill their gaps.

Thus, retail players have been reluctant to sell or ground lease “down” from higher paying per square foot retail tenants. Now, demand linkages are being sought as revenue added lifelines.

We have watched America’s downtowns explode residentially with the allure of amenity-rich lifestyles at their doorstep. Malls, for example, provide urban/suburban locations with specific retailers, restaurants, entertainment venues and movie theaters, not usually found outside the mall market area.

Hotels are looking for new linkages as is being evidenced by brand names such as Hilton, Cambria Suites, Courtyard by Marriott, Inter-Continental, Holiday Inn, Hotel Indigo and Global Hyatt. They see the on-site demand linkage for their business as a win, as does the mall operator.

More and more hotel patrons are using their room as an office during travel. They want convenience: a no-hassle, stress-free time walking out their door into a mall to eat or for an air-conditioned stroll, maybe a movie and back to their room.

For leisure travelers, single or with a family, the mall or lifestyle center also provides the necessary amenities along with retail, restaurant, entertainment and the sense that you are a part of a safe haven.

The linkages back and forth create daily and weekly revenues. Of course, hoteliers must look at the demographics, location, tenant mix, architecture, etc., as they decide what brand, room count and mix links them best to that mall/lifestyle property.

With holiday travel down nationwide, business and leisure travelers looking to save where they can, and now vacationers staying within their own state, the hotel linkage to a mall with cross-easement parking becomes a welcome revenue generator for both.

Let’s frame a specific mall example with “right on” demographics, intracoastal/Atlantic water views and no hotel: Merritt Square Mall on Florida’s east coast, a short distance from NASA/Cape Canaveral, parks and Atlantic beaches. This long-time well-performing mall has it all—major boxes, Macy’s, Sears, Dillard’s and JCPenney, and key restaurants such as Outback Steakhouse, Uno Pizzeria, TGI Friday’s, Ruby Tuesday’s, a food court and Cobb 16 movie theatre.

Glimcher Realty Trust has just made available a five-acre corner parcel for two hotels on that site. The site has direct intracoastal water views from the third floor and above. This tourist/business location is a choice link offering direct access to the immediate area’s draws.

As retailers creatively rethink value-added links drawing new patrons and filling shuttered retail gaps, maybe hotels really are the missing link for aged and new mall/lifestyle properties.

The views expressed here are those of the author and not of Incisive Media or its publications.

Mark Cooney is executive director of land services with GVA Advantis in Tampa. He can be reached at [email protected]

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