Regency Centers Democratizes Retail Leasing

Baltimore — The 161,734-square-foot Parkville Shopping Center is using Popularise to gauge what customers want.

Baltimore  — Regency Centers has implemented a crowdsourcing project called Popularise to determine which new tenants would be most successful at Parkville Shopping Center. Different from outsourcing, crowdsourcing refers to charging a public group with solving a traditionally academic problem. But some say it’s becoming an effective business tool.

Popularise was created last year by Washington, D.C., commercial real estate investors and brothers, Ben and Dan Miller. The site encourages communities to shape their neighborhoods by recommending what retailers they would like to see in their market. Popularise features 11 projects in four U.S. cities, including the 161,734-square-foot Parkville Shopping Center.

Alan Roth, senior market officer for Regency Centers, says that the company wasn’t convinced the program was going to work, but were very intrigued by crowdsourcing and wanted to pursue it.

“Our intent was to find an opportunity to engage the surrounding residents in generating ideas for retail and restaurants for the shopping center,” Roth says. “Second, we wanted to bring some visibility and exposure for crowdsourcing to some existing business that are currently operating at the shopping center.”

People who access the website (www.popularise.com/parkville) have the ability to endorse a specific restaurant or can vote more generically by asking for a Mexican restaurant. The program has been in place for two weeks, and due to the short time period, Regency Centers has yet to see an overwhelming response to any retailers so far. Roth says that a number of restaurants have been suggested with Chipotle and Panera Bread gathering most of the votes from followers.

“It actually endorses the fact that there’s a void of restaurants,” says Roth. “Whether or not we land Panera Bread or Chipotle is secondary to the fact that we clearly are hearing that people want more restaurant opportunities, so that gives us further endorsements to continue down that path.”

In addition to adding new tenants to the grocery-anchored center, Parkville Shopping Center is undergoing a complete facade renovation. The $1.7 million construction will enhance the center’s common areas, as well as improve the landscaping, signage and branding. The design was created by Annapolis, Md.-based Bignell Watkins Hasser Architects. Construction will be complete in November, and the center’s tenants will remain open throughout the renovations.

— Brittany Biddy

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