The East Bay retail center is undergoing a $250 million renovation and expansion, which it will celebrate with its “Party in the Plaza” event on Thursday to ring in the completion of phase one, which added 315,000 square feet of space.
As shopping center owners talk big tech games, Macerich’s improvements at Walnut Creek aim to give something more to existing tenants and hopefully woo new ones. It already counts more than 50 stores that have either opened or are in the process of opening. That mix includes Lou & Grey, Kit & Ace, Lululemon Athletica, Lucky Brand, Soul Cycle, Eileen Fisher, Tommy Bahama, Vince Camuto and Aritzia. Macy’s late last year completed a 57,000-square-foot expansion on its 247,000-square-foot store that added men’s and unveiled new cosmetics and fine jewelry departments among other additions.
The idea is to create a point of differentiation in the market with a property of flagships where retailers put their best foot forward.
“Our merchandise mix is what I would consider active lifestyle. It’s not a luxury tenant mix nor is it a traditional mall tenant mix,” said senior executive vice president and chief operating officer Robert Perlmutter. “We really focused on the merchants that would serve our customer well and, again, it’s a very active lifestyle. In terms of the group of tenants that we found, we had tenants that were new to the market. We had tenants in our center that we wanted to expand and present their merchandise in a newer, larger concept. Some relocated from downtown.”
About five of those roughly 50 new stores represent relocations from downtown spaces.
What tenants wanted was just more space for features such as outdoor storefronts or two levels, Perlmutter pointed out. Those were features Macerich couldn’t offer before the expansion, added vice president of development Garrett Newland.
“The property has been there a long time. They started construction on it in the Fifties and had several phases of redevelopment over time,” Newland said. “By tearing some of it down, we were able to offer retailers of today their prototype space.”
Work on the center, which opened in 1951, began in 2014. The first phase is a 315,000-square-foot addition with a four-level parking garage and outdoor amenities, representing the majority of the makeover. The second phase, which is under way and expected to be completed over the next 18 months, totals 60,000 square feet of space for flagship tenants. One of those is Zara, which is taking up about 25,000 square feet to open by holiday.
Integration of more high-tech features hasn’t been forgotten, with Perlmutter pointing out three key components to the approach with technology at Broadway Plaza.
“The first is how we communicate with our customers, both before they get to the shopping center, when they get to the center and after they’ve left the center,” he said. “So technology plays an important role in terms of how we communicate and how do we enhance it. The second piece is it impacts our marketing efforts in a significant way and the evolution of more traditional marketing programs is critically important to our shopping centers. The third element is it generates a tenant base that we are trying to capture of e-commerce retailers that are trying to migrate offline.”
The chase for born-online brands that are dipping their toes in brick-and-mortar stores is happening across centers. Broadway Plaza is no different. Perlmutter confirmed the center has a couple of those e-commerce players set to join the center.