8C —April 23 - May 20, 2021 — Spring Preview — M id A tlantic Real Estate Journal


R etail R eal E state

Levin Management Corporation Retail Construction Emerges as a Key Element for Dealmaking, Property Agility


ew industries have seen greater pandemic-fu- eled disruption than the

– is construction. In fact, ac- cording to Levin Management Corporation’s (LMC’s) Mat - thew Harding, chief executive officer, and Maxim Gagneron, VP of construction and devel - opment, construction activity throughout the commercial real estate services firm’s shop- ping center portfolio is back to pre-pandemic levels. In the following interview, Harding and Gagneron weigh in on the North Plainfield-based com - pany’s current activity, and the role construction plays in retail dealmaking and a property’s competitive positioning today and moving forward.

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. The fast-casual chain just opened in January, sharing a free-stand- ing former restaurant building with a Comcast Xfinity Retail Store, which celebrated its grand opening at the center in 2019. This fully renovated and architecturally appealing build- ing – set on a high-visibility outparcel – played a significant role in attracting Popeyes. Q: How important is the availability of construction services for fit-out work when it comes to attracting tenants? Harding: National retailers are making deals again; they have come “off pause” and are taking advantage of current op- portunities to lease exception- ally good real estate at a good price. Many also mandate that the property owner can deliver the space ready for occupancy. They are looking for turnkey delivery of a space, which, sim- ply put, is having us fully build out the store. These projects are complicated, require extensive work and often must be de- livered within a specific time frame. With penalties applied if dates are missed, this can become costly. This is where construction expertise becomes paramount. Utilizing third-par- ty service providers that offer a complete package of integrated services – in-house construc- tion management along with property operation and leasing capabilities – gives shopping center owners a distinct ad- vantage. Gagneron: For example, we completed a buildout for national off-price retailer Bur- lington Stores at Somerville Circle Shopping Center in Raritan, and currently are working on building out space for Burlington at Mill Creek at Harmon Meadow in Secaucus. We also have completed several buildouts for Ulta Beauty and will be doing more for this re- tailer in the future. In the case of both Burlington and Ulta, working through these leases involved setting timeframes and deadlines for space deliv- ery. The projects illustrate how the collaboration between our leasing agents and construction department creates a holistic approach that generates value for our clients’ investments. We have strong relationships with the best professionals, includ- ing architects and engineers, as well as contractors that have continued on page 14C

Q: How does leasing ac- tivity impact construction velocity? Harding: Amid hurdles fac - ing the industry in 2020, our leasing team remained focused on successfully bringing deals to fruition. Now, as 2021 gains momentum, so does our as- sociated tenant fit-out work. As an example, our team has recently completed approxi- mately 125,000 s/f of tenant buildouts, with about 250,000 s/f of work currently underway. Another 200,000 s/f in the near- term pipeline indicates that this trending is set to continue. Q: What are shopping

center owners doing to prepare spaces to compete for tenants, many of whom have more options now due to pandemic-fueled vacancies? Gagneron: More pre-prep work is happening before a space even goes on the market. For example, façade improve- ments freshen up a space and make it more attractive to pro- spective tenants; in the past, this is something we may not have done until a tenant was signed to the space. One such example is at St. Georges Cross- ing in Woodbridge, where we arranged a lease last year with

retai l , res - taurant and e n t e r t a i n - ment sectors, whi ch over the past year have seen the business of selling goods, s e r v i c e s

Matthew Harding

and experiences change swiftly and markedly. Yet amid the resulting challenges, there are signs of improvement and tan- gible progress. Leasing activity is picking up, and so – in turn

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