E-whupped retail developers extoll mixed-use planning

Mix and match: Panelists (from left) Joshua Weinkranz, Stanton Eckstut and Matthew Whalen discuss the future of mixed-use developments.

The experts have spoken, and their message about the future of retail real estate is clear: Mix it up.

Faced with rising e-retail options and dwindling attendance at brick-and-mortar shopping malls, property owners will need to incorporate mixed-use development into their future plans, including combined retail and residential uses.

So say AvalonBay Communities Senior Vice President Matthew Whalen, Perkins Eastman Architects principal Stanton Eckstut and Kimco Realty Corp. Northeast Regional President Joshua Weinkranz, who on Tuesday delivered their very clear mixed message to a gathering of the Long Island Real Estate Group.

More than 160 real estate executives gathered at the Old Westbury Golf and Country Club to hear from the expert panel, according to information provided by Melville’s Waxwords Inc. The discussion was moderated by Eric Rubenstein, partner and co-chairman of the Real Estate practice group at Uniondale law firm Ruskin Moscou Faltischek PC.

Each of the speakers reinforced the mixed-use message. New Hyde Park-based Kimco, which owns interests in 507 U.S. shopping centers comprising 84 million square feet of leasable space, predicts that a decade from now, “retail will look entirely different,” according to Weikranz.

To that end, the publicly traded Real Estate Investment Trust is already eyeing a handful of assets for possible mixed-use conversion, Weinkranz added, including a Queens site where Kimco hopes to build 350 residential units atop 60,000 square feet of existing retail space.

Whalen noted that Virginia-based AvalonBay Communities, also an REIT, has undertaken various mixed-use projects around the country. Exhibit A: the Harrison Metro North Station in Westchester, a 3.3-acre project raising mixed-use construction – including affordable residential units and a parking garage – around a Metro North Railroad station.

But while AvalonBay has had some success working with retail property owners to find suitable redevelopment sites – and there are a handful of Long Island retail centers where the formula would apply – the Island “is slow to move in this direction,” Whalen told the LIREG audience.

“There needs to be some leadership on the land-use side,” Whalen added.

Weinkranz agreed that retail tenants with long terms remaining on existing leases can present obstacles to mixed-use redevelopment plans, with parking requirements and other testy issues often muddying the works.

Eckstut, whose Connecticut-based global architectural and planning firm counts “Large-Scale Mixed Use” among its 14 distinct practice areas, suggested there is no one formula for successful mixed-use redevelopment – but added that certain areas around Stony Brook University, for instance, provide prime opportunities for retail-residential plans.