Food With A View: Brookfield Properties’ Ed Hogan on Lower Manhattan’s Answer to Eataly

Ed Hogan is the national director of retail leasing for Brookfield Properties and has a lead role in signing food vendors and retail tenants at the World Financial Center, soon to be renamed Brookfield Place. In the past month, Brookfield has inked deals with eight vendors and confirmed that the restaurateur Peter Poulakakos will operate the facility’s new marketplace. Mr. Hogan spoke with The Commercial Observer last week about his vision for Brookfield Place, the thought process behind choosing food and retail tenants, and how Brookfield Place will fit into lower Manhattan’s evolving landscape.

The Commercial Observer: What is your vision for Brookfield Place?

Mr. Hogan: Our vision is to create the most exciting, dynamic neighborhood in Downtown Manhattan. Brookfield Place is situated on the edge of the Hudson River, facing the New York Harbor and Statue of Liberty, and is truly one of the most special places in the city, with unparalleled views. Given the transformation that Downtown’s undergoing, we just view it as a great opportunity to create a dynamic neighborhood that is indicative of the people living, working and visiting Downtown today.

When you’re evaluating potential retail tenants and food vendors, what are you looking for? What are some of the common themes?

We always look for best-in-class, but in addition to that, we’re not looking for something that you can find anywhere else. We’re really looking for something indicative of Downtown and what it is evolving into, which is really one of the most dynamic neighborhoods in the city. There are billions of dollars of new projects under construction in lower Manhattan, and you have not seen such an investment in such a small area in the U.S. With that many public and private projects, it’s going to be a very different place.

DSCF3099What will make it unique?

With our physical geography, it’s our proximity to the water. We sit right on the water’s edge, which is hard to find in New York. We think we have a great opportunity to bring together a collection of shops and restaurants that really speak about the future of Downtown Manhattan.

The population has doubled over the past 10 years to over 60,000 people living south of Chambers Street, but there’s also another 55,000 living in Tribeca, and those residents—whether they’re living in Battery Park City or Tribeca—are very well-heeled, well-educated, worldly residents, and [they] are used to having exposure to the best shops and restaurants in the world, and so they’re a very discerning customer to begin with.

We have some of the top corporations in Brookfield Place and the surrounding buildings, and you are seeing a diversification of the office space Downtown, with Condé Nast and other media companies looking Downtown. You are going to have a wider array of customers from the office tenancy. Then you have an international tourist population that has never existed before Downtown. There are few spots in the world where you have this true overlapping.

What do you look for in food tenants?

With the food tenants, we are looking at best-in-class, but also tenants that appeal to New Yorkers. We are spoiled in New York—we have the best restaurants. I think the average New Yorker has a sophisticated palate, and to impress them takes a lot of thought and a lot of work to bring in a collection that will resonate with New Yorkers and be a draw. Food is one of the few retail components that has really stayed local and gives you a flavor of what that neighborhood is about. So we have spent a lot of time on the food, bringing in some great local and some more international restaurateurs, chefs and purveyors. I’m very excited about our lineup.

What about retail tenants?

When you’re a retailer and you’re good, that business model requires you to grow. You can have one really good restaurant, or a handful within walking distance in the same town, but when they get larger than that, it becomes more chain-like, and we’ve definitely steered away from that. On the fashion component, it’s the opposite. If you’re an up-and-coming designer, you’re going to be opening boutiques in all the right places across the globe.

We’ve looked at a collection that is luxury fashion. People don’t shop just high-end anymore, they really shop design. We’re looking at the collections that are offered by those designers—the quality of the garments, the details. We’re really looking at curating a nice collection so a customer can come in and shop multiple brands and walk out with what they need.

Do you find you need to make different decisions or balance between residents and those people that work in the area and live somewhere else? Or do you find that what you’re looking for is going to appeal to a broad range of shoppers?

If you look at the office residents that are west of Broadway in lower Manhattan, the West Side is becoming a hot office market. Those office tenants are the decision-makers, the CEOs, the top earners in those corporations, and that also mirrors who’s living in Battery Park City, who’s living Downtown and who is living in Tribeca. So it makes it a little easier for us that our residential population and our office population, in many cases, are one in the same.

You have a worldwide population touring the area. We are targeting to a certain segment of that population. We certainly cannot target the whole population.

What’s the time line for getting the retail operational and the marketplace running?

We are looking to open the dining terrace component—the fast-casual dining—in the first quarter of 2014. Our entire center will open in the third quarter of 2014. We’ll have a grand opening and all the stores will open in the fall of 2014.

Can you give us an overview of the layout and how the marketplace is going to look?

In the center of the marketplace will be this amazing butcher shop. There will be a fishmonger. There will be a cheese shop. There’s going to be a really unique wine shop. Then there will be a couple of restaurants within the marketplace. One of the restaurants will be a waiter-service restaurant that will be a very popular and dynamic restaurant. Then they are going to have a more casual restaurant that will mostly be in their outdoor seating area, which will be more of a seasonal restaurant.

They will also have different components in the marketplace. They will have fresh produce. They will have grab ’n’ go. They’ll have prepared food. You’ll be able to go there and grab all the ingredients and prepare a fabulous meal and also buy prepared foods and serve that up.

And a separate fast-casual dining area, correct? What will that look like?

That’s upstairs. The marketplace is about 25,000 square feet with about 8,000 square feet of outdoor dining, and upstairs is a 35,000-square-foot, fast-casual dining [area]. There are 14 purveyors there, we have announced eight of the lineup, and the rest are in lease at this point. It’s a beautifully proportioned space. There are 600 shared seats; you’re going to be feeling like you’re sitting in one of the best proportioned restaurants in the city.

You’ll have all these fast-casual eateries where you’ll be able to have a nice and affordable meal in a nice setting, overlooking the Hudson River and the harbor, and I think it will be a huge draw—not only for office workers. I think it’s going to be a second kitchen for the residents Downtown, and I think it’s going to be a huge draw for the tourists. You have an amazing view of the harbor, so we see that place busy morning, noon and night and all the way in between.

Lastly, how will the completed Brookfield Place fit into the Downtown neighborhood?

I think Brookfield Place is going to be the heart and soul of the new Downtown. It’s one place where neighborhood residents are going to come—the office workers are already here. The residents come through every day. A lot of them cut through to take their kids to school and cut through to take their kids back from school. I think the marketplace is going to pull those neighborhood residents in—just like a Whole Foods pulls their neighborhood residents in.

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