The ICSC Blog

February 25, 2015
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Learn About VIVA Finalist: Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Fashion Outlets of Chicago
So tell us about who you are and what you do?
My name is Jeff Gunning, and I lead RTKL’s Commercial Practice Group in the Americas. I am based in our Dallas office. RTKL is a global firm, and I have the privilege of working with talented architects and designers worldwide, creating experiential places that provide a sense of community and push the boundaries of art and architecture. I have focused mostly on large-scale, retail-driven, mixed-use developments that combine retail, entertainment, sport, residential, office and hospitality. The potential of these projects to totally transform and revitalize a city center is what I find most exciting. I am a charter member of the advisory board for the AIA Retail Entertainment Knowledge Community, and I chair the ICSC Future Image Architecture Competition.

Tell us about your project?
Fashion Outlets of Chicago represents a complete departure from the traditional factory outlet model by offering an upscale shopping experience that seamlessly blends art, food and fashion in a luxury environment. Located 20 minutes from downtown and across the street from O’Hare International airport, the mall is accessible via the highway or public transit. It features 530,000-SF of space and more than 150 retailers, including Gucci, Prada, Barneys, Diane Von Furstenberg and Moncler. Due to its proximity to O’Hare, the center caters to an international audience.

A variety of inventive techniques integrate site-responsive architecture with high quality design, including a seven-level parking deck covered in a veil of perforated, corrugated and flat metal panels that soften the rough exterior and pre-cast concrete patterned exterior walls that reduce the building’s scale. Digital signs, display screens and 14-foot high rooftop signage enliven the façade and ensure visibility to motorists or passengers flying overhead into O’Hare. Inside, generously-sized skylights, comfortable lounge space, well-appointed restrooms and custom environmental graphics are among the many high-end amenities offered, and specialty retailers are strategically aligned by location. Overall, Fashion Outlets of Chicago is designed with flexibility for the rapidly evolving retail environment and a sophisticated shopper’s point of view in mind.

What made this project stand out?
Fashion Outlets of Chicago is the city’s first ground-up, enclosed shopping center built in over a decade. The design incorporates nationally and internationally commissioned work to enrich and enliven its unique ambience. The concept was brought to life through a partnership with The Arts Initiative, a newly formed collective dedicated to placing highly interactive visual art in public venues. This fusion of site-specific, museum-quality art with a public space adds a layer of sophistication unusual for a retail center and engages new audiences in the art experience. Each piece is intelligently integrated into RTKL’s interior architectural framework.

Our design combination marries the aspirational shopping experience with a brand new retail format—the luxury outlet. This urban, multi-level, art-filled outlet mall established a new paradigm for the retail experience while achieving the practical objectives of accessibility and an appealing merchandise mix for the target market demographic.

As Lori Mukoyama, Senior Associate Vice President of the retail environments studio in RTKL’s Chicago office, put it, “Bringing this vision to life in a fresh way required collaboration with developers, community leaders, retailers and other stakeholders. We are extremely pleased that this cooperative effort resulted in the creation of a contemporary combination of dining, art and shopping, making Fashion Outlets of Chicago a premier shopping destination.”

What are you most excited for at RECon 2015?
ICSC RECon is one of the most dynamic events that I attend—a true meeting of the minds for the shopping center industry. I am excited to connect with other professionals and to learn more about the latest industry trends and best practices, which will help me gain valuable perspective that will inform RTKL’s current and future projects.

February 18, 2015
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Learn About VIVA Finalist: Shops Around Lenox


So tell us about who you are and what you do?
Healey Weatherholtz Properties (HWP), in partnership with institutional and individual investors transforms properties in collaboration with innovative merchants, architects and artists.

ASD I SKY is a national architecture, interiors and graphic design firm. HWP and ASD I SKY began collaborating in 2009 and have worked together on numerous projects.

Tell us about your project?
Shops Around Lenox was a complete reposition of a 1970s tired, car-centric retail center into a fresh, contemporary, pedestrian-friendly environment.

The redevelopment retained the original building footprints, but transformed the retail experience by individualizing each storefront, incorporating greenspace, public art and artisan restaurants.

What made this project stand out?
A truly integrated design, which includes architecture, graphics, landscape/hardscape design, lighting, signage, way-finding and site furniture, merchandising, and connectivity. The end result is much more than a retail destination. SAL has become a community gathering place, integrating leading global retailers, local boutiques and restaurants.

What are you most excited for at RECon 2015?
Who doesn’t love a Las Vegas pool party? This year’s opening reception is rumored to feature the winning combination of both cabanas and bungalows.

February 17, 2015
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Q&A with J. Skyler Fernandes, Managing Director of Simon Venture Group: What is SVG, the SXSW: Retail Competition, and the Future of Retail?


ICSC: What is Simon Venture Group?
Skyler: Simon Venture Group launched in early 2014 and is the corporate venture capital arm of Simon, focused on investing in the future innovation of retail, both in-store and online. The investment strategy is to make directly strategic investments that improve the overall shopping experience as well as indirectly strategic investments that help our retailers solve some of their biggest challenges and support them in creating an omni-channel strategy. Simon Venture Group invests $250K-$5M in seed to growth stage companies across a broad range of verticals such as indoor data analytics, marketing, payment, logistics, mapping and navigation, parking tech, and ecommerce to brick (E2B) brands. To learn more go to:

ICSC: What are the verticals within retail technology that you are most interested in?
Skyler: We’ve been actively investing across the retail tech space and we currently have 12 portfolio companies, soon to be 15 with the 3 winners from our startup competition, Simon Launch. As we grow our portfolio, it’s amazing how new ecosystems are being created that represent the “future of retail”. For example, if we look at three of our investments that are omni-channel focused, you can see how they all work together: Miner is the “Everywhere Store”, an ecommerce platform tied to physical locations, SKUIQ (one of Simon Launch’s winners) is syncing real-time inventory across stores and warehouses, and Deliv is powering same-day and on-demand delivery. By using all three together retailers can better execute an omni-channel strategy.

Another ecosystem is the physical data analytics space, imagine connecting a parking technology tracking spot by spot inventory, to an in-door mapping and navigation platform of a shopping center, which is also connected to the inventory data and location of the inventory aisle by aisle in a store. Shopping quickly becomes that much more seamless and enjoyable.

ICSC: Looking at strategic value, who is your key audience, and who benefits from these initiatives?
Skyler: Simon is taking a very hands on approach working closely with our retailers to find where they need the most support for innovation. Our goal is to help the retail industry evolve faster, and together, by identifying, investing in, partnering, and accelerating top new solution providers. Many of the challenges retailers face are universal, and are not retailer specific. We’re identifying the most important aspects of shopping from retailers, shoppers, and shopping center owners and we’re going after those opportunities first.

ICSC: What is the genesis of the SXSW Future of Retail Competition? How can companies apply to the competition?
Skyler: SXSW is a great platform to showcase “what’s next”, and we thought what better way to do that than a retail tech competition for the Future of Retail at SXSW. We will be selecting 10 semi-finalists to present at the Mentorship Hub, and then narrowing them down to 5 finalists that will be presented on the main stage to a panel of judges including an editor from TechCrunch, Venture Capitalists, and Industry Experts from Simon. A winner will be selected to win a grand prize of $5,000 and the audience will vote for the popular choice to win $1,000. Companies interesting in learning more and applying, can go here. Applications are due by Friday, February 20th, 2015.

ICSC: What innovative initiatives has Simon created thus far?
Skyler: Since launching Simon Venture Group, Simon has launched three new initiatives, Simon Innovation Group, Simon Launch, and the Silicon Valley Retailer Summit.

Simon Innovation Group is the umbrella group focused on partnerships, investments, and business development. The website for the group will be launched soon and it will be a central portal showcasing all of the innovations Simon is working on and will offer a direct method for connecting companies, retailers, and startups to work with Simon on creating the Future of Retail.

Simon Launch is Simon’s startup competition, where up to three winners are selected to receive a cash investment and potential follow-on investment, free office space for a year at a Simon property, and accepted into a 12 week accelerator program hosted by Plug and Play. We are excited to be announcing the three finalists from our first class in the coming days.

The Silicon Valley Retailer Summit is a private event for the top retailers to attend, bringing together retailer CMO’s, CTO’s, and Heads of Digital to network and see presentations from the leading retail tech startups as well as participate in VIP tours with the tech giants in Silicon Valley like Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Ebay, etc. It also provides a platform for retailers to form a roundtable to share their insights on what’s needed for the future and discuss where they are seeing traction with new solution providers.

February 9, 2015
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Top 6 Highlights of ICSC #WhisConf

Blog provided by PiinPoint

Skiing. Space-shuttles. Signatures.

This year’s ICSC conference in Whistler was an impactful occasion: three jam-packed days of deal making and entertainment in all things retail real estate.

Although tough to narrow down, here’s what we’ve pinpointed as the top 6 highlights of #WhisConf 2015:

Chris Hadfield

1. Chris Hadfield’s inspirational keynote: “The sky is not the limit”
“We didn’t do it because we had to, we did it because we just barely could.” What an honour to hear the man himself, colonel Chris Hadfield, address and inspire the ICSC crowd. As the first Canadian Commander on the International Space Station, his message served as a great reminder to keep perspective on how we spend our time and dedicate our efforts. “It’s not what you pay attention to, but what you can afford to ignore.” Colonel Hadfield not only demonstrated tremendous character, but was also an incredibly down-to-earth speaker. ;)

Image sourced from Speaker’s Spotlight, Dec. 19, 2014

Processed with VSCOcam

2. Deal Making at its Best: 120 Exhibitors, 1200 attendees, thousands of handshakes.
There’s no doubt that this ICSC conference facilitates collaboration. An impressive display of exhibitors, alongside a robust sales-oriented attendee list, proved that deal making was what #WhisConf was truly all about. Over the course of the weekend, both the Fairmont and the Four Seasons were abuzz with people making connections and reaching agreements.

Adam Conter

3. Adam Conter, “Revitalizing the Small Market Downtown”
CBRE’s Adam Conter shared insightful trends on how retail growth has remained limited in Canada’s smaller municipalities. His talk pointed out what can be done to revitalize these smaller downtown markets, be it strategic transit locations, tax incentives, or gaining the right insights into the target demographic. One thing that stood out as a key tactic was understanding your consumer data and from it identifying where the gaps are.

Industry Update

4. Industry Update: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Retail is evolving. It was so obvious to everyone at this conference, as we entered conversation after conversation hearing terms like “omnichannel”, “brick and mortar”, and “big data” tossed around. As a result of further globalization, we’re seeing changes like urban densification, a growing online and mobile retail market, and new pressures for space – to name a few. There were some fascinating insights shared on how the industry will adapt and respond to meet these changing expectations.


5. The Drive from Vancouver To Whistler
We were glad to escape the snow and cold that PiinPoint HQ were experiencing back in Ontario to see the majestic hills and mountains in beautiful British Columbia!

Brick and Mortar

6. Location, Location, Location.
We confirmed at ICSC that despite the trending popularity of ecommerce and online stores, the presence of brick and mortar operations remains as important as ever for retail sales. A resounding theme that appeared throughout the conference – be it the stories of growth for Nordstroms and Walmart or the announcements of store closures experienced by Target and Sony – was the need to use location specific intelligence in one’s market expansion strategy. The right real estate location still plays a key role in the success of a business.

Image sourced from MintTwist, December 8, 2014

Tommy Guns

7. *Bonus* Tommy Gun’s Original Barbershop Exhibit:
These folks offered a firsthand experience of their five-star service by giving out free straight-razor shaves for the gentlemen in the crowd. The “new men’s grooming experience” and classic shave proved to be out of this world. Thanks Tommy!

Thanks ICSC! As a software company operating to serve the retail real estate industry, #WhisConf proved to be an exceedingly valuable event to attend – not only as an organization new to the industry, but also for the leasing specialists, brokerage directors, and real estate professionals that we met there. We had a fantastic few days and are already looking forward to next year!

About the Author:
Jim Robeson is the CEO of PiinPoint, a location intelligence company that helps retail real estate professionals find the best locations for expansion. Using with the most comprehensive and accurate data available in real time, PiinPoint makes site selection and location analytics easy. For more information visit

February 4, 2015
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Check Out ICSC Retailer of the Week: Paper Source

image1.JPGBased on trends from the recent holiday season, even a casual observer would recognize that paper holiday cards seem to be on the wane. Rather than sending cards by mail, many individuals and families are opting for electronic cards or greetings via social media. However, for true stationery aficionados, there remain a rich variety of cards and paper products—for holidays and every day—such as those available at Paper Source.

As something of a stationery snob, I was eager to check out Paper Source, the “premier paperie and gift retailer,” which recently opened a shop on New York’s Upper East Side, a perfect neighborhood chock full of old-school card givers. Merely stepping into their lovely shop set my heart racing—this is the kind of place where a paper/gift lover can happily spend hours. Launched in 1983, in Chicago, the store’s motto is a worthy mantra for anxious, over-scheduled people everywhere: Do Something Creative Every Day.   Now with 70 stores around America, Paper Source has a wonderful array of papers, cards, and craft products, beautifully displayed and maintained by knowledgeable, cheerful sales associates. The store contains cards and stationery that are ready to be mailed, plus crafting items for card and gift projects that would delight any do-it-yourselfer.

In describing their philosophy, Paper Source proudly states that they offer a “curated selection of papers, custom invitations, announcements, distinctive gifts, quirky greeting cards, gift wrap, paper craft kits, party supplies and personalized stationery and stamps.” While some might scoff at the rather high-minded description of “curating” a stationery store, after spending some time there—I completely agree. Indeed, many of their products are original to their store and designed by their Chicago-based team.

Paper Source maintains its vibrancy as a retailer by embracing innovative sales strategies, coupling traditional brick-and-mortar stores with online commerce via, as well as a wholesale division, Waste Not Paper. With in-store classes and demonstrations for children and adults, customers can learn new ideas and receive helpful instruction, while gathering with like-minded folks, who cherish meaningful correspondence, commemorating life’s little celebrations—and the big ones, too. Paper Source staff members stand ready to not only answer questions, but help in the creation of unique announcements and invitations for life’s greatest milestones: coming-of-age celebrations, weddings, anniversaries, baby arrivals, and more.

While many people may find beautiful cards and letters a quaint relic of the past, out of step with our busy lives, we all might do well to visit a place like the Paper Source, which invites us embrace the simple—but perfect—moments of life that deserve a proper thanks, congratulations, or word of kindness or support.



February 2, 2015
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Don’t let cynicism steal your opportunity to influence Congress

Does Congress Listen infographic 013015.jpgBy Leslie Fox, ICSC Director of Legislative Outreach

As the 114th Congress opens, the political mudslinging continues along with charges that deep pockets have too much influence. Understandably, many Americans have an extremely cynical view of Congress. In fact, according to a recent Rasmussen poll, 66% of constituents believe that their elected officials in Congress don’t care what they think.

The reality is that if you can set cynicism aside, then you will find that you actually have a significant opportunity to cultivate relationships with your elected officials and become an influential voice in their decision making process. Don’t believe that this opportunity exists? In a 2013 study by the Congressional Management Foundation and Society for Human Resources, 95% of House Representatives said that “staying in touch with constituents” is the most critical component of their job satisfaction and effectiveness. Additionally, the report found that Representatives spend less than 20% of their time on political and campaign work. Still not convinced? In another study conducted by the Congressional Management Foundation, Congressional staff said that constituents who make the effort to personally communicate with elected officials who are undecided on an issue are more influential than lobbyists or news editors.

What all of this means is that your elected officials are open and willing to hear from you, if you make the effort. Over the next few weeks, we will examine different methods for getting the attention of your elected officials and building relationships with their offices. Here’s a snapshot of some of the areas we will explore:

  • What’s best: face-to-face, a letter, phone call, tweet or email?
  • Participating in Day at the Capitol events
  • The key to successful meetings with your elected officials
  • Is there value in relationships with Congressional staff?
  • Site visits: Hosting elected officials at your business
  • The benefits of engaging through social media
  • Attending a town hall event
  • Tying it all together: establishing yourself a resource for your elected officials

When it comes to government, you can either be at the table or on the menu. Either way, decisions that impact your business will be made. Don’t let cynicism silence your voice.

ICSC’s Office of Global Public Policy is dedicated to representing the shopping center industry before elected officials at all levels of government. If you are interested in learning more about how to get involved in our work, please contact me at or 646-728-3665.

January 23, 2015
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Win A Free #RECon15 Badge!

Show Floor-5726
RECon 2015 is looking to be better than ever and we are giving away four free full-conference badges!

How could you get one of these hot-ticket items? It’s simple, each week we will be posting a trivia questions on Twitter using the hashtag #REConTrivia, if you answer the question correctly and use the hashtag in your response you will be entered into a drawing to win one of the four free badges.

So check out @ICSC_RECon on Twitter for the questions each and every Friday and try your hand at our #REConTrivia.

Remember, the future starts now!

January 16, 2015
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10 Reasons to Attend #RECon15

Reconnect with prosperity and profits at ICSC’s RECon 2015! RECon is the world’s largest retail real estate exhibition and conference and is a must-attend event for shopping center industry executives, retailers, financial companies, and product and service suppliers. If you’re in the shopping center industry, you can’t afford not to attend RECon. When over 34,000 of the best and brightest in the industry come together, the opportunities are limitless.

1 Professional Development Day
Taking place on Sunday, enjoy a day that is dedicated to education, training, and professional development. Before the exhibit halls open on Monday, this is your chance to take advantage of non-compete time to enhance your career skills. With a choice of quick hitting or in-depth educational sessions on industry concepts from ICSC’s world-class speakers and faculty, this program offers a variety of timely topics across a range of disciplines. Participants earn 1.0 professional development credits toward ICSC certification renewal.

The world’s largest show for the cart, kiosk, and temporary retail industry is coming to RECon. SPREE has become a fixture in the specialty retail industry, offering cart, kiosk and pop-up store retailers, wholesalers, specialty leasing professionals, and service providers the unique opportunity to gather under one roof and make deals. #SPREEshow

3 Leasing Mall
Whether you’re a shopping center owner, looking to lease space in a new or existing shopping center, or a retailer, looking to expand into new markets, the Leasing Mall is the place where the deals get done! With over 900 of the world’s largest shopping center development companies and retailers in attendance, the Leasing Mall is the most cost efficient means of doing business. You can visit with all the major companies in the industry and conduct a year’s worth of business in just three days. Stop by Retailer Central and Retailer Square in Central and North Halls with Networking Lounges and free WiFi.


4 Marketplace Mall
The Marketplace Mall will feature over 300 product suppliers and service companies, grouped together in one convenient location so that you can quickly and easily learn about the latest innovations that will improve your profitability. Whether you are looking for signage, shopping carts, or solutions on how to engage consumers through social media, you can get all the information you need at the Marketplace Mall.

5 U.S. MAXI Awards
The U.S. MAXI Awards, ICSC’s marketing awards program, will again take place at RECon. The U.S. MAXI Awards honors innovative events, programs and technology that are vital to shopping center success. Designed to recognize the evolution of the industry, while rewarding innovation and creativity, they are the premier marketing awards in the industry.

Cities of the World-6120
6 Cities of the World Pavilion
The Cities of the World Pavilion will feature cities and municipalities as well as government and non-profit organizations that are looking to attract retail real estate development to communities throughout the world. Located on the Leasing Mall floor, the Cities of the World Pavilion will allow attendees to quickly and conveniently learn about all the incentives, inducements and development opportunities that exist in communities near and far.

7 Finance Pavilion
The Finance Pavilion is one convenient stop for attendees to meet with financial companies, banks and lenders to discuss incentives and financing opportunities that will make their development dreams come true.

8 ICSC Foundation Gala Dinner
Jump start your RECon at the ICSC Foundation Gala Dinner. This who’s who of retail real estate is the ideal opportunity to give back while entertaining your clientele or staff. Join us at this private engagement for a night of networking and song with a tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Separate registration required. Space is limited.

9 Design Trends Exhibit
Today’s dreams and tomorrow’s realities are featured at the Design Trends Exhibit as shopping center owners, developers, architects, and designers display their vision and latest concepts. Located in high traffic areas throughout the Convention Center, a Design Trends Exhibit is an ideal way to expand your presence and drive traffic to your Leasing Mall exhibit.
10 Meet the Trustees Breakfast
This is your opportunity to discuss key industry issues with ICSC’s Board of Trustees in an interactive, roundtable setting.