Walking the Floor at the International Council of Shopping Centers conference
Jotham Sederstrom Dec. 7, 2011, 3 p.m.
Each year, the sound and the fury that is the International Council of Shopping Centers conference returns to New York City for a two-day affair that includes dozens of seminars, the retail industry’s biggest names, and, for some lucky brokers, the start of lucrative new relationships with the nation’s biggest brands. The Commercial Observer’s Dan Geiger walked the floor at the New York Hilton this past Monday and eavesdropped on the city’s biggest players, including Bruce Ratner, Paul Massey and Robert K. Futterman, as they courted retailers from California to Brooklyn. Below, a minute-by-minute look at Monday’s proceedings, with a special assists from Observer photographer Hannah Mattix.
9:00 – Chris Howard, minding the door to General Growth Properties’ private room on the sourth wing of the second floor says it’s not a good time to come in and network, GGP’s executives and brokers are already busy having private meetings at tables with clients.
9:30 – Waiting for Mayor Michael Bloomberg to take the stage in a portion of the grand ballroom, Ariel Schuster, a broker with Robert K. Futterman, pops in. He says that the day has already gotten off to a fast start. He’s had breakfast with a tenant at 8:00 am and and a quick
9:35 – meeting with another client. “It’s going to be a long day,” Schuster said.
9:45 – Mayor Michael Bloomberg takes the podium and delivers one of signature booster-speeches for the city, weaving in some pretty impressive retail stats, including that the city expects a record 50 million tourists this year and more in the future. Developer Bruce Ratner listens intently from the front row. Seeing him, Mayor Bloomberg says, “I purchased season Nets tickets.”
“Have you paid the bill?” Mr. Ratner jokes.
“Have I paid the bill? Good question, I’ll have to look into that.”
10:00– Mall developer Joe Simone networks with guests outside the ballroom. “Meetings, meetings, meetings,” Mr. Simone responds when asked what he has on his agenda for the day. “We’re all here to get work done.
10:20 – At Cushman & Wakefield’s boothe on the second floor’s north wing. Matt Winn, head of C&W’s U.S. retail operations said that he’s going to be in meetings at the company’s boothe and at its world headquarters at 1290 Sixth Avenue, which is conveniently just a few blocks from the New York Hilton, all day. Earlier that morning, Mr. Winn said that C&W hosted 90 retailers and clients for a breakfast at its offices.
10:40 – Gene Spiegelman calls out to Joan, an executive with the retailer Desigual, “Hey! The last time I saw you was in the streets of Caan!”
10:45 – Cory Zelnik, a retail broker who operates his own brokerage firm, feels upbeat about the show so far. “It’s a little more than last year.” Joanne Podell, a C&W broker at the nearby C&W boothe sits down with executives from TD Bank, one of her clients.
10:50 – Ben Fox, a retail broker from Massey Knakal Realty Services, joins Ms. Podell’s conversation with the TD executives.
11:00 – Morris Terzi, a broker with Crown Retail Services, an affiliate of the real estate investor Stanley Chera’s real estate company Crown Equities stands at the company’s booth. It’s noticeably less busy on this side of the floor. “It’s still early,” Mr. Terzi explains.
11:15 – Anthony Stapleton, an executive with the investment firm Cogswell Realty, is walking from booth to booth on the second floor. He’s interested in meeting tenants for a roughly 4,000 square foot retail space the company has at one of their properties 215 West 125th Street, which is being vacated by a McDonalds. “It’s important to meet people face to face.”
11:35– Chase Welles, an executive with the retail brokerage Northwest Atlantic is en route to his company’s booth. “We have a 12:00 meeting,” Mr. Welles says. He is getting together with a developer from New Jersey with a big box retail project in the planning. “We’re talking about maybe putting in a Whole Foods,” says Mr. Welles, who is a broker for the Texas-based grocery chain.
12:00 – Cory Elbaum, an executive from Thor Equities strides in. “I just got here,” Mr. Elbaum says. The company has just acquired 520 Fifth Avenue, a group of buildings on Fifth Avenue just north of Bryant Park that Thor will raze and develop into a 300,000 square foot mixed use property with retail, hotel and residential space. “We’re really excited.”
12:15 – Forest City’s private room next to the entrance to the south wing has a huge lunch spread with dozens of sandwiches and desserts.
12:20 – Frank Fiorella a broker with Princeton Realty Group is waiting for a meeting with one of Forest City’s executives. “I’m shopping around a fast food tenant,” Mr. Fiorella says. The Commercial Observer tells him that Cogswell is looking for this type of tenant for its building on 125th Street. “You’d earn a renewal fee for that,” Mr. Fiorella said. How much we asked? “Well I’m guessing a deal like that would be about a $60,000 commission, so you’d get about $7,000.” That’s pretty good we tell him. “You see? That’s what this is all about.”
12:45– Adelaide Polsinelli, a sales broker with Marcus & Millichap, is chatting outside the ballroom back in the main reception. “I come here to meet people,” she says, pausing to say hello to a passing acquaintence. “You see? He’s a multifamily buyer, what is he doing at a retail event lie this? Now I am going to show him properties with a retail component. That’s what you get when you come to this, incredible intel.”
1:15 – Brothers Jason and Albert Laboz bask in the glory of having freshly closed a deal. The pair have purchased the base of downtown Brooklyn’s Municipal Building, roughly 40,000 square feet that the city is selling to them as a condo and that the pair will convert into retail space. The two paid $10 million for the space and estimate it will take $10 million more to do construction on the space.
1:45 – Jeffrey Weinhaus, chief development officer for Equinox gym chain bemoans the fact that he’s not going to be able to hit the afterhours circuit tonight of parties and cocktails. “I agreed to go to dinner with a client and turns out it included a performance of Phantom of the Opera afterwards.”
2:00 – Joseph Jacobson, executive with Madison Capital, says that the outlook for retail is encouraging in the city. “You get a forecast at this event and so far it’s been very positive.” Madison Capital he says, just closed a deal with Walgreens to take a little over 20,000 square feet at the firm’s downtown office property 100 Broadway. “We’re marketing another 4,000 square feet there now.”
2:10– A representative at Walmart’s booth says that the retailing giant has been receiving many requests by brokers to meet with the company’s New York leasing contact to discuss the possibility of a New York City store.
2:20 – Vornado Realty Trust’s booth on the north side of the third floor is filled with company executives meeting with clients. One group is poring over floorplans to Vornado’s New Jersey mall, Wayne Town Center.
2:35 – Stephanie Werther, Starbucks’s director of store development in the city, mans the company’s booth. “We’re looking to expand,” she says. Is there room for yet more Starbucks locations on Manhattan’s already coffeehouse-saturated environs? “Yes, there is plenty of room for growth that is in line with our strategy.” she says.
2:45 – Robert K. Futterman, founder of the eponymously named brokerage company, is networking with other attendees. “There is a lot of great energy here. I’m pretty busy now, so let’s talk later.”
3:00 – Paul Massey, a cofounder and senior executive at Massey Knakal, and Ben Fox are chatting on the hotel’s second floor. “I think I may have closed a deal,” Mr. Fox says. When the Commercial Observer asks if it’s with TD Bank he responds, “You said it, not me.”
Mr. Massey asks where the company’s booth is.
“Well you just go right up, see the escalator? You go up there and hand a right, I mean a left and go to the back of the room and then you kind of do a U-turn,” Mr. Fox said.
“Uh yeah, I’ll find it,” Mr. Massey says with a smile.