Presented By: Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield
Speaker Spotlight with URW’s Stephen Fluhr
Commercial Observer spoke to Stephen Fluhr, senior vice president of development at URW, about how the company curates the different parts in a mixed-use community.
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) is a dynamic global developer and operator of flagship destinations. Currently, the group owns and operates 82 shopping centers in Europe and the U.S. Present on two continents and in 12 countries, URW provides a unique platform for retailers and brand events and offers an exceptional and constantly renewed experience for customers.
What makes a mixed-use development successful?
Stephen Fluhr: While many different factors go into determining a development’s success, one of the most important things to consider is the integration of the different buildings, green spaces, and other amenities. Careful consideration needs to be given to ensuring that each offering is complementary to the others in the community. Buildings that stand alone and are proximate to each other don’t provide an integrative experience that creates a sense of place from the start. The ground plane connection, the “place” where all these uses come together, drives the experience and creates the pride of place that differentiates a walk to your car to go elsewhere versus a walk to meet your friends, neighbors and colleagues. Ultimately, it’s about creating a “can’t-miss” attraction that is a destination all on its own where people come to live, shop, work, play, and so much more.
Ensuring a development also includes significant community and sustainability features like new parks and green spaces, green building construction, upgraded connectivity to public transportation networks, and electric vehicle charging stations is also critical, so that the destination becomes a significant contributor to the economic, environmental and cultural vitality of the local communities it serves.
We’ve all read about developers taking “dead malls” and repurposing them into new, mixed-use communities. How is URW’s approach to the redevelopment of its assets different than that of some other developers?
At URW, we keep our strong retail assets at the core of our planning — and then figure out how we can break down barriers between our existing shopping centers and surrounding business districts to create entirely new neighborhoods encompassing modern luxury homes, offices and coworking, sporting destinations, hotels, plazas, parks and gardens.
By embracing the mall as amenity, and as an established anchor of the community, we make the sum greater than all the parts and can create something that’s different from other mixed-use developments. Execution in this kind of environment takes extra care to ensure that our projects make the mall even better while introducing complementary asset classes and uses to the site.
In addition, our co-development strategy — in which we bring our global retail expertise and partner with best-in-class residential developers — allows the best in the business to come together to ensure that not only each part is the best, but that they “understand” each other and integrate in ways that are better than when they happen in a silo.
D.C. has been the beneficiary of a wave of talent recently. As cities across the world are competing for top talent, D.C. has been crafting a competitive edge with sought-after emerging neighborhoods and the introduction of new industries. How can mixed-use developments help attract new residents and visitors?
Mixed-use developments provide additional choices in types of living. If successful, the development creates a true town center, where people have access to just about anything they want or need — from shopping for the latest fashions; to dining at premier chef-led restaurants; to taking in live events, concerts and cultural festivals. In a market as car-dominated as the DMV, mixed-use developments with meaningfully broad amenities provide opportunity for a carless experience and community-focused lifestyle.