Any place where people gather is now subject to scrutiny in this new world that we are all navigating day by day. Mixed-use centers are home to places for shopping, dining, living, working and playing and are not exempt. Proactive developers have a great opportunity to shape the future of what these communities will look like.
Even though so much uncertainty continues to surround COVID-19, companies that can pivot quickly will see growth as they nimbly shift current business models to implement innovative strategies to adapt to this new environment.
S.J. Collins Enterprises, a privately held, commercial real estate and retail development firm headquartered in Georgia, continues to press ahead with one such innovative project – The Interlock, a $450 million mixed-use development coming soon to emerging West Midtown in Atlanta.
The S.J. Collins Enterprises’ team is mindful of what a post-COVID world will look like while encouraging tenants to expand their footprint with outdoor space in mind. While The Interlock was already designed to offer more than 50,000 square feet of outdoor space and dining areas, the developer knows its success will be based on attracting visitors and residents to gather in safe spaces while also providing connection, activation and energetic places for people to thrive.
“With 50,000 square feet of outdoor space specifically for tables, chairs, soft cushion seating and fireplaces, we have elements ready to poise our restaurants for success,” said Jeff Garrison, partner at S.J. Collins Enterprises. “The future of fast-casual and sit-down restaurants will be directly tied to the availability of outdoor patios, easy walk-up windows or delivery to easily accessible parking spaces and technology and restaurants especially will have to accommodate these changes to be successful.”
In addition, The Interlock is equipped with a well thought out parking deck that conveniently connects to nearby retailers, allowing guests to proceed to their destinations without the use of an elevator in many cases, and parking close enough to restaurants for easy pick up or delivery right to diner’s cars. For office workers, the option of parking and walking quickly and directly to the workplace is another huge advantage.
The availability of greenspace will also continue to be a major factor in developments of the future. Beyond a curated selection of stores and eateries, mixed-use centers that encourage walking, biking and basking outdoors with Wi-Fi hot spots for people to work outdoors will see more success than enclosed, indoor spaces or shopping malls. With plenty of greenspace, patios and paths that connect throughout a property, like what is planned for at The Interlock, people will have the ability to gather, stroll and enjoy the open-air landscape without feeling overwhelmed by smaller confined spaces.
Additionally, new health-conscious innovations will always have a place in mixed-use centers of the future. One example at The Interlock can be clearly seen in the developer’s choice for windows in its office spaces. View Smart Windows are being installed, a dynamic glass that tints automatically like a pair of transition sunglasses. The windows eliminate the need for blinds and can enhance people’s overall health and wellness by significantly reducing headaches, eyestrain and drowsiness.
“For workers returning to the office post-COVID, creating an environment focused on employee health is now a major priority,” said Christine Sweeney, regional director of View. “With its inherent health and wellness benefits, View Smart Windows have become even more beneficial, and the elimination of blinds and shades offers another advantage because they can be traps for viral pathogens.”
But as many things change for mixed-used projects over the next few years, some things will always remain.
“As this pandemic continues to convert the way the world operates, one thing will stay the same when it comes to commercial development – people crave connection,” said Justin Latone, senior vice president of leasing at S.J. Collins Enterprises. “Companies then can provide ways for people to connect safely while still providing opportunities to be together and maintain as much normalcy as possible, plus be flexible in this new environment, will be the ones that are the most successful.”