The iconic quote from Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come” seems to be the motto of many shopping centers, as the property owners and managers take a back seat once contracts have been negotiated and leases signed. But can shopping centers always rely on the stores they house to provide adequate pedestrian activity? Much can be learned from shopping centers that are fostering a sense of community within their developments – and those properties are having surprising results!
Bakery Square is a perfect example of a mixed-use development working to benefit both the shoppers and retailers. Rather than relying on stores to offer incentives to draw in crowds and hoping that shoppers spend additional time window shopping, Pittsburgh’s Bakery Square has established itself as not only a shopping destination, but also as a place where families can spend time together. The community that has been cultivated at this popular shopping district can be an inspiration for property managers everywhere.
While Black Friday shopping was markedly a success with brick and mortar retailers this year, Bakery Square saw the need for community focused events to bring shoppers together. Gregg Perelman of Walnut Capital explained that while shoppers are drawn to particular stores at Bakery Square, they do not necessarily visit many other stores on their shopping excursions. He noted that, being a mixed-use development, the fitness center and offices see a good portion of center’s foot traffic, so it can be a challenge to bring passersby from the streets into the stores. Bakery Square’s answer to this? An event that would promote local vendors, provide entertainment for children and adults, and encourage shoppers to mill about from store to store. This event was called Winter Wonderland.
Bakery Square’s pedestrian activity during Winter Wonderland (November 30th and December 1st) compared to the start of the holiday shopping season one week prior (November 23rd and 24th). Black Friday and the following Saturday saw steady activity, but paled in comparison to Winter Wonderland turnout.
I Made It! for the Holidays! kicked off the Winter Wonderland event Friday, November 30th. From 5 pm until 10 pm, a Holiday Marketplace featuring over 85 local vendors and artisans drew in crowds of shoppers. When juxtaposed with a typical Friday this time of year, it is easy to recognize the impact Winter Wonderland had on bringing in a steady flow of shoppers.
The second day of Winter Wonderland continued with I Made It! for the Holidays! and with the addition of photos with Santa (even pets were invited!) and Tapped! Pop Up Beer Garden! with local brews and treats from local restaurants and vendors and music by DJ Gordy Greenawalt. It is clear that each of these components contributed to the success of Winter Wonderland.
Perelman spoke to the necessity of events such as Winter Wonderland, “The shoppers like other retailers, but they come for one and they don’t always go to the other stores. During Winter Wonderland, people visited the vendors that were set up and after that they went to Anthropologie and then they went to Free People and so on. In the end, everyone benefitted from people being at Winter Wonderland.” Perelman said that retailers had “taken a chance” on Bakery Square following the mid 2000s purchase by Walnut Capital; since that time Walnut Capital has used a combination of inventiveness and industry expertise to keep retailers, shoppers, and the local community pleased. One of their latest innovations has been the installation of Motionloft sensors throughout the mixed-use development. Offices (most notably, Google), retailers, the fitness center, and the Marriott SpringHill Suites all attract people for different reasons and understanding how they move throughout Bakery Square allows for improved features and attractions. Perelman mentioned the addition of a farmer’s market to Bakery Square once the weather warms up and hinted at another I Made It! Market in the spring.