The ICSC New England Conference & Deal Making was held from July 18 through July 20, 2017 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. Registered attendance at the Conference was strong again this year, with over 1,200 people registered for the show.
The sessions on the opening day of the show included a program on public/private partnership, as well as some fun from NextGen with real estate trivia. The key note speaker of the opening day was Tom Wilder from The Wilder Companies. In his remarks, Tom highlighted many of the changes that are transforming the industry. He pointed out the decline in the apparel retailers, which is a trend that so many at the Conference are seeing in their projects. However, the growing importance of retailers that offer an experience or a service, including restaurants, entertainment, medical office or other service retail, is changing what projects look like today. Mixed use projects that offer a vibrant round-the-clock atmosphere are well positioned for success. Tom closed his remarks with advice that in order to survive and thrive in these changing times, landlords and developers need to take risks and try something new. The Retailer Runway in the afternoon was consistent with Tom’s remarks, featuring many restaurants and fitness concepts, as this segment of the industry continues to grow and flourish. A common theme among the participating retailers in the Retailer Runway (including Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Orange Theory Fitness, and honeygrow, among others) was the “halo effect” that a vibrant tenant use can have in terms of attracting other tenants and customers to a project.
The deal making session on the second day of the show was attended by both landlords and tenants. While at times the traffic in the leasing floor seemed light, attendees reported several positive and productive meetings. The mood at the after-Conference party was upbeat and positive. There was acknowledgement that the industry is in a period of change, but a recognition that there is opportunity as well.