Boulevard East – Avalon

Avalon recently celebrated the Grand Opening of its much anticipated Boulevard East (Phase II). The award-winning mixed-use project, which first opened in 2014, continues to grow and break through the glass ceiling of experience driven developments. Avalon offers the people of Alpharetta, Georgia not only the best retailers, shopping and dining options, but also has created a unique community-living option with its on site apartments, single family homes, townhouses and soon to be opened hotel and convention center.

The Boulevard East opening welcomed new retailers such as Apple, William Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Lucky, Brooks Brothers, several new eateries including Rumi’s Kitchen, MF Room, District III, Brine Seafood, and more. The latest expansion also brings a new 276-unit apartment complex named the Veranda and a 10-story office tower. Avalon isn’t stopping there – more is still to come.

Working with North American Properties on this project has been an exciting challenge for as we were tasked with managing all elements of Tenant store design. We created and deployed our cutting edge Digital Design Criteria Manual (DDCM) which governed design for the center, managed the design of each Tenant’s unique exterior storefront, presented approved storefront designs to the City of Alpharetta Zoning Design Review Board on behalf of each Tenant for fast-track approval, and reviewed interior layout design in addition to Tenant signage packages. The team’s hard work enabled us to open more than 25 new high-end Tenants at this stunning, one of a kind center.

If you want to learn more about Avalon and our work with North American Properties, check out our profile on Sheri Ross, Leasing Director.

Outlets of Des Moines


Our team has been working on the Outlets of Des Moines for the past year managing the entire retail delivery process on behalf of New England Development (NED) and the Greeby Companies. Part of our job has been to create custom systems for the project, including a DDCM and our newest tenant coordination software. Outlets of Des Moines will be an exciting new shopping destination located just outside of Iowa’s thriving capital. Opening in October 2017, Outlets of Des Moines will feature over 300,000 square feet of retail and dining options in the growing entertainment hub of Altoona. The first round of tenants that have been announced to the public include big names such as Nike, Under Armour, Vera Bradley, Vanity Fair and many more.

Things are moving quickly on site with NED as we turn-over Tenant spaces in anticipation of Grand Opening. Check out the live construction cam in the link below.

Client Profile – Tracy Shaw Client Profile 

Tracy Shaw – Assistant Tenant Coordinator

For our second Client Profile we sat down with Tracy Shaw, the tenant coordinator for The Collection at RiverPark. The Collection is a beautiful open-air lifestyle center in Oxnard, California that offers a Whole Foods, REI, and Century Theatre in addition to public art installments, office space, restaurants, and dozens of other retailers. We spoke with Tracy to learn more about her work with Shea Properties, the real estate developer behind The Collection, and what makes the shopping center unique. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself and your job as a tenant coordinator?

Tracy: I’ve been working in construction for over 30 years. For 25 years, I was in the homebuilding industry: Construction Accounting, Land Development, Land Acquisition and Entitlements. For the past five years, I have been in the Commercial/Retail industry. My job is a great challenge as I work with so many people on a day-to-day basis starting with my team, General Contractors, Architects, Mall Management, Security, and Marketing. My main goal is to do everything I possibly can to help our tenants open their spaces—from lease execution to grand opening.


w: How did you decide to get into the field of retail development?

T: After the recession, Shea Properties contacted me about working at The Collection at RiverPark in Oxnard. Although I had never worked on a retail project, I saw it as an opportunity to expand my experience and work for a company with a great reputation in the industry and roots that go back more than 125 years.


w: What are some of the greatest challenges with your position? What do you like most about what you do?

T: My greatest challenge is how my priorities change constantly throughout the day. I may start off in the morning with one goal in mind, and then something comes up and I have to pivot. What I like most about what I do are the people I work with. They make me want to come to work every day.


w: Could you describe your typical day?

T: My typical day includes many different tasks. I will usually check in to see how our general contractors are progressing and see if they need anything from me. I always try to prioritize the jobs that need my attention first. This could be anything from scheduling with operations and security, to submitting plans to the city, to attending a formal plan review meeting, or to working on payment applications for our general contractors. I’m definitely the go-to person for our corporate office when anything is needed, such as pictures, documents, help in resolving landlord/tenant issues, and more. I love the variety in my job and how busy it keeps me.

“Restaurants are quickly becoming the new anchors.”


w: In what ways have you seen the industry change over that last 10 years? How do you see it changing in the next 5 years?

T: Although I have only been in this particular position for five years, the retail industry is constantly changing. Brick and mortar stores are seeing increasing competition from the big online retailers and are trying to develop strategies for competing. Restaurants are quickly becoming the new anchors as patrons want more of an experience, and not just a place to shop. Social media is everywhere and we’re finding that it’s the best way to communicate directly with our patrons. It’s an exciting time in the retail industry.


“Social media is everywhere and we’re finding that it’s the best way to communicate directly with our patrons.”


w: What advice would you give someone just starting in the industry?

T: I would advise anyone to keep an open mind. Real estate development is a great career path, but my specific position isn’t a structured 8 to 5 job where everything is done at the end of each day. It changes all the time and there are always fires to put out and deadlines to meet. tYou must be knowledgeable about construction and never be afraid to direct people as you work with so many who require your assistance.


w: What makes The Collection at RiverPark such an exciting project?

T: The Collection at RiverPark filled a huge void here in Oxnard. It’s a beautiful retail center with some amazing tenants and an attention to detail that I have rarely seen in similar developments. If you take a close look, you’ll find sea glass embedded in the concrete, fountains and murals created by local artists – even the stop signs are unique, they say “STOP and smell the ocean.” The developers thought through every feature, and it shows.


“Even the stop signs are unique.”


w: What is the biggest lesson you learned from the project?

T: The devil is in the details and assume nothing. I have found that there are so many details to review and understand in the retail development business. If you miss something, no matter how small, it can affect the end result and cost you time and money.


w: Why did you choose to use’s DDCM? Would you recommend the DDCM to a colleague or choose to use it again?

T: We saw the need for our DDCM to be online for easier distribution and use by our tenants and contractors. And yes, I would recommend and use DDCM to anyone who asks. The team has been incredibly helpful and accommodating with change requests and has really helped me understand the admin tool for making future updates.

w: What are you looking forward to most this year, either personally or professionally?

T: I’m looking forward to growing my position by increasing my responsibilities. I think this will help me get to the next level with my team and with my career – it should help me professionally and personally!


Client Profile – Sheri Ross

Sheri Ross is the Director of Lease Administration at North American Properties, a premiere commercial real estate development company headquartered in Cincinnati that serves the Midwest and South. is working with North American on an exciting mixed-use project in the city of Alpharetta, Georgia called Avalon. The project has won several awards, including Deal of the Year in Metro Atlanta and a New Development Gold award from ICSC. Avalon offers half a million square feet of retail space in addition to outdoor amenities, office space, luxury rental units, and single family homes. Avalon is certainly the future of shopping centers. The grand opening of its second phase is April 13th, 2017. We sat down with her to get her take on the industry, this special project, and the future of retail. Sheri, could you start by telling us a little about yourself and your job as a leasing director?

Sheri: Sure. I work on the leasing team and I also work on the development and construction team. I get to wear two hats. I negotiate all of our leases, that’s my leasing hat and then I also work on tenant coordination. So I take a deal from the time the letter of intent is signed through lease negotiations. Then I work with the tenant to get their store designed, their space delivered, their tenant build out completed and then get them opened for business. Once they are open for business, we hand them off to the property management team.


w: How did you decide to get into this field?

S: I started in this business in 1989 by accident. I was trying to get a teaching job in Raleigh, North Carolina and the Triangle area is very competitive for teachers. I was fresh out of college and didn’t have any experience, so I could only get hired as a substitute teacher and substitute teachers have no benefits. I was barely making the rent and a friend of my step dad’s was looking to hire an office manager for the mall office at North Hills in Raleigh, North Carolina. They offered me a job, making at the time only like $1,500 more than I was getting paid as a sub, but I would get benefits and it was a full time job. I knew that I would get enough work to pay my bills, so I abandoned teaching and took a job with the mall. I have been in retail estate since then acting in various roles. I’ve been in property management, I’ve done some marketing, and now doing leasing and tenant coordination. So my career has kind of evolved over the years.

I think that having worn different hats and come up through the property management ranks certainly gives me a good background to handle a lot of the challenges that I face today. For example, when I am negotiating a lease, if I’m giving something away to a tenant I understand how that’s going to impact the property management team because I’ve been in their shoes. I know what it’s like when you have a lease that is difficult. So, like I’ve said, I’ve been doing this a long time and gained a lot of experience.


w: What do you like most about what you do?

S: I like working with the tenants. I like talking with them – each tenant is different in that their business is very unique. There are very unique things about a shoe store versus a jewelry store versus an electronics store. Their driving factors, what’s important to them, what are their hot buttons. I find all of that very interesting. How you bring all of these people together to operate as a harmonious unit to create a shopping environment and experience that appeals to everyone. Each tenant speaks a different language because they all have different things that are important to them and being able to bring it all together and make it work – that to me is very cool.


w: In what ways have you seen the industry change over the last 10 years? And how do you see it changing in the next 5-10 years?

S: The industry has changed dramatically since I’ve been in the business. The golden child of the industry was enclosed malls for a long time. Then people moved to the burbs and it was power centers – you know Target and Home Depot and Best Buy. And then people started moving back into the cities and the big box centers don’t fit as well in urban markets – it’s very difficult and they have learned to evolve and we had to learn to evolve with them. And then the web, the growth of online shopping and purchasing. Basically you never have to leave your sofa to buy anything, unless you want to go out to dinner. You can sit in your house with your iPad or your phone and buy anything you need. So what is going to make someone want to get out of their pajamas and off the sofa to get in their car or get on a train or bus and come to your center?

“People want the experience and connection.”

To be successful you have to offer them something they can’t get from that iPhone or that iPad. Customers want an experience. And you bring retailers together that offer unique products and an experience with their purchase. You curate a great mix of restaurants and entertainment options, because people want the experience and connection. You bring live music, you bring events, you bring things that people enjoy seeing and doing together and that’s how we have responded to the change in market. That is what we’re doing in all of our centers. If you don’t bring that human element, if you don’t give people a reason to love to visit your project then they’re not going to come- they’ll sit on their sofa with their phone.


w: What makes Avalon such an exciting project?

S: We create an experience. We’ve carefully curated our restaurants to include a great steak place, a great Mexican place that serves the best margaritas in town, a very cool burger joint, sushi, the best pizza in the area. We brought together top restaurants and they serve as an anchor because that brings people together. We have Regal Cinemas, which is another experience-based retailer. Whole Foods adds yet another dimension to the overall Avalon experience. Customers love the engaging environment at Whole Foods  and a vibrant grocery store is an important element of Avalon’s success.

“We have curated a property that becomes that third place.”

So we bring all that together and we provide public gathering spaces. The sum is better than each of its parts. We are giving people a third place to go in their daily lives. You have your home place and you have your work place but where do you go when you’re not at home and you’re not working – well that’s your third place. And we have curated a property that becomes that third place where you can go to grab dinner and catch a movie, you can sit in the plaza and catch free live music. You can grab bean bags and play cornhole with your buddies holding a big beer on Tuesday nights. You can bring your kids on Tuesday mornings for ‘Mommy’s Morning Out’ and they do the tot thing in the plaza. So again, it is creating a reason, giving people an experience and that’s what Avalon does best.

The Alpharetta market changed dramatically over the past years and the existing retail offerings did not keep up with it. Alpharetta used to be, in an old expression, a “cow town” – way out there, cornfields, not a lot going on. And then the market changed and dozens of technology companies opened up along GA 400 corridor. With technology companies come highly educated people, making good wages and they don’t want to shop at standard department stores anymore. They want to shop at a nicer place. They want to be able to shop at stores carrying the hottest brands like a Lululemon, they want to be able to have a nice meal and a great bottle of wine. In order to get what they were craving these people were having to drive south, all the way to Buckhead in northern Atlanta. The market had changed, the existing retail never saw that evolution and didn’t keep up with it. So we filled in that void.



w: What was the biggest challenge with this project?

S: The biggest challenge was that it was a new, untested market. We were reaching out to national retailers in a time coming out of the recession. So we were starting our pre-leasing in 2012, people are finally starting to shake the cobwebs of the recession and we were talking to merchants such as Banana Republic and Lululemon and J. Crew and Crate & Barrel. All of these tenants are saying, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know if we’re ready to make a move to an unproven market. We’re really happy with our store in Buckhead.’ And it was a lot of, ‘I don’t know, it’s new, we don’t like new, we’d rather wait for a space to open up in say Lenox Square down in Buckhead, a proven market.’ That was a big deal, getting brands like Anthropologie to go to Alpharetta. That was hard. It was a huge challenge.

“We were trying to create a village.”

The other huge challenge was that we had never built a mixed-use center before. We had never built a project this complex with ground floor retail with apartments and offices above. So that was a learning curve for us here at North American. We have a multi-family division so they built the apartments and we did build the office lofts over retail as well. And because we were trying to create a village that offers guests a meaningful & unique experience, we didn’t want it to physically look like or operate like any other shopping center.

One of the ways we did that was we had each tenant design and build their own flagship storefront. We delivered cold dark shells and had each tenant fit-out their stores including a custom designed storefront. In the past we would deliver to tenants what is known as a white box. So they get their floor, they get their lights, they get their bathroom, and they get their storefront. They go in, provide and install their inside finishes and put their sign on the front. That’s not what they got here. We wanted each retail space and each restaurant space to look completely different. We wanted it to be an authentic storefront along a new main street similar to those traditional downtowns in Cool Town, USA. And that was incredibly challenging to get retailers to do that much of the work themselves and design their own storefronts. And then, where those storefronts meet, where those two tenants touch like where Lululemon meets Madewell, how do you waterproof between the two of them? How do you connect them? One storefront is taller than the other and one sticks out in front of the other, how do you work that out to be waterproof and beautiful? Design coordination was super difficult. Also, physically and logistically that was a big challenge. We were building 60 stores at the same time and they all have their own general contractors with their own dozen subcontractors. It was controlled chaos during tenant build out. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And the most interesting and challenging thing I’ve ever done.

The team – we rely on for systems and managing our “boots on the ground” tenant coordination. We had Michael Greeby, whose role was to lead the tenant coordination team, set up the tracking system, write the Digital Design Criteria Manual. He also had to review all the Tenant storefront designs, tweak them so they looked awesome, figure out what was going to look good next to one another, and get them through the City of Alpharetta’s Design Review Board approval and permitting process.   Also, we have Jeff MacMillan on site as our senior tenant coordinator. At our busiest time during Phase I we had four people on site from and the Greeby Companies. So there were two pieces that provided for us that we relied on very heavily. Michael talked more to tenants and their architects than we ever did. We relied on Michael to be our voice, communicating our vision. We are doing the same thing for Phase II with Brandy [Kardys of] and Michael. Very seldom did I need to get involved with a phone call to the Tenant design teams. Brandy brings me in only when a tenant is just being too difficult or we can’t reach a resolution, or the resolution is going to cost the landlord money.


w: Why did you decide to use’s DDCM?

S: Because we had never done this before. Members of NAP’s development and construction team knew Michael from previous jobs and so we knew Michael had the vision with his design perspective and the technical expertise to hold our tenant’s hands through this process. They had done mixed-use projects before, even though ours was probably at the time one of the bigger challenges they’ve had. But they were there every step of the way.

“We knew Michael had the vision with his design perspective and the technical expertise to hold our tenant’s hands through this process.”

As they say, it takes a village and Avalon took a village to get it open. Michael and in writing our design manual and doing all the things he did through the entire tenant coordination process – from the storefront review, to construction drawings review, and the sign package review  was a very key member of our team to bring it all together.


w: What are you looking forward to most this year, either personally or professionally?

S: Professionally, I am looking forward here to working on our new Colony Square project. We bought an existing property that we are going to redevelop, including ripping the roof off of the retail atrium that connects the two office towers. My role right now on this project is to deal with all the existing tenants. So professionally, by September 1st I have to know exactly who’s staying and where they’re going or exactly who’s leaving and how much it’s going to cost us and have all of the deals papered by August 31st. It’s a pretty big job that’s taking up a lot of focus because there are so many moving parts.

Personally, I am renovating my townhome. I bought a new townhome and I moved into town from the burbs in November of 2015 and I’ve been slowly renovating it. I finished my bathroom renovation about 60 days ago and currently I’m in the middle of my kitchen renovation, which should wrap up by March. So my goal is to have a house that will be worthy of actually inviting somebody over and they don’t have to step over plywood and tools and they can actually sit on a piece of furniture without getting dust all over them. Leads CenterBuild SIG’s Michael Greeby led an ICSC CenterBuild Specialty Industry Group (SIG) session entitled Center Re-Boot in Phoenix, AZ this year. More than 30 professionals joined Michael and his panel of industry all-stars, Andrea Hidalgo of JBG, Stephen Trommsdorff of Kite Realty Group, and Jim Steman of CenterCal Properties, LLC to redevelop an imaginary 50,000 sf shopping center. The team broke into four groups to act as branding, leasing, design and construction teams where they developed a center logo, design vernacular and elevations, merchandising plan and proposed income, and estimated budget.

The group proposed that the estimated income for the of $1.25 M / year and a total capital expenditure of $16.5 M, the cash-on-cash ROI would be 7.4%. In less than one hour, the team nearly got the pro forma to pencil on its first pass. Great work and thanks to all who attended!

DDCM – How to Search

Tenant Criteria Manuals are packed full of important information needed by Tenants, Leasing, design and construction team members to close deals and open projects. With the DDCM Search feature, you no longer have to settle for flipping through cumbersome paper manuals or hitting control F repeatedly.

Watch our quick How to Search video to find out how to use this powerful feature. Can you keep up?

Retail Delivery & Technology Manager

Welcome pirates! I applaud your ambition and thank you in advance for your interest. Here’s what’s up:

Retail Delivery & Technology Manager

We are looking for a dynamic team member to join our young and expanding real estate technology and consultancy firm. This position requires one to be able to multitask, prioritize, and complete projects independently. Must be able to learn on their feet and never miss a deadline. Seriously, missing deadlines is not an option.

If you are the type of person that wants to:
1) learn the retail real estate industry from the ground up;
2) leverage your creativity and design skills to solve common industry challenges;
3) organize and take projects from concept to implementation (or abandonment if appropriate);
4) take initiative and have a voice;
5) help a small firm grow and become an influential company;
then this is the position custom made for you and we need to talk.

Responsibilities would include, but certainly not be limited to:
A) Project management for the production and deployment of our custom digital tools;
B) Acting as primary client contact for those who have purchased our services;
C) Creating and meeting deadlines for the production of tools and delivery of services;
D) Training customers on how to use our tools;
E) Supporting principal to produce client deliverables including reports, exhibits, lease abstracts, lease plans, and digital tracking systems;
F) Providing design input and review for retail Tenant store facade, signage and interior design;
G) Reviewing base building and retail tenant drawings for conformance with Landlord design criteria;
H) Assisting with corporate administration including tracking systems for employee related production, contact management, digital marketing, presentation support for CEO, and anything else that we create.

We make tools and provide services to help others become better artists at their craft.

Our clients choose us because we are innovative, responsive, personal and accessible. We make their jobs and lives easier by solving common problems that currently bog them down and detract from their core value at their organization. We make their jobs and lives easier and more fun.

You will get to work on numerous commercial and mixed-use retail projects across North America. From small boutique single Tenant projects to the largest regional shopping center Owners, we assist our clients by providing technology tools and consultancy services that accelerate and support the development, leasing, design, tenant delivery and construction for retail projects.

Our corporate structure is simple and there are no corporate politics to navigate (regrettably there is also no softball or fantasy football league either – yet). We expect our team to be able to work independently, remotely (home, road, airport, Starbuck’s), and collaboratively to start and complete tasks as required. We have, but often times do not use our Bucktown/Wicker Park and Humboldt Park office, as clients and projects often times require us travel to their sites or offices. If you are NOT from Chicago, that is cool too we are completely open to discussing … wait for it … working from your existing location.

Growth potential is unlimited and we are looking for the right candidate to help us expand to not only meet, but create our next opportunities.

Qualifications / Skills:
We value, celebrate and require the following personal attributes:
1) Initiative – we set the direction
2) Collaboration – we can’t do it alone
3) Integrity – we must never compromise quality
4) Honesty – we have no greater value
5) Responsibility – we lead by example
6) Accomplishment – we are expected to get it done

Without the natural talents above, success in this position will be impossible.

Candidates must have the following skills:
1) Familiarity with commercial/retail real estate development, design & construction
2) Fluency with MS Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint)
3) Fluency with digital image manipulation (resizing, cutting, cropping)
4) Fluency with Adobe CS (Illustrator, InDesign, PhotoShop)
5) Proficiency with all web browsers (IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome)
6) Proficiency with social media platforms (twitter, linkedin)
7) Familiarity with WordPress
8) Familiarity with Prezi
9) Familiarity with MailChimp
10) Familiarity with Google Drive / Dropbox / box and/or other cloud files sharing applications
11) Familiarity with Google Hangouts / Skype / FaceTime
12) Architectural, Engineering, Construction or Development background

Ideal, but not essential:
1) AutoCAD
2) Revit
3) Sketchup
4) Fluency in Spanish

Email me and I promise to answer your questions regarding this one of a kind, exciting position. Make sure to tell me why you are even interested and the right person for our small team. Cheers!


Happy Holidays 2015

Another year comes to an end and we want to wish you a Merry and Happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Pancha Ganapati, Newtonmas and/or Festivus. We look forward to working together in 2016 with our clients, advisors, friends, and colleagues. Be safe and stay warm. Cheers!