Positioning Retail Real Estate for a New Generation

January 18, 2017

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Signage Plays a Key Role at Shopping Center Properties

Levin’s Construction VP Roy Vice Discusses Defining a Retail Property’s Image

NORTH PLAINFIELD, N.J., Jan. 18, 2017 – The adage “you only get one chance to make a first impression” rings true in retail real estate. Signage – the first component that meets a consumer’s eye – is a vital tool for communicating with shoppers, and has a major impact on a property’s aesthetic appeal, according to Roy Vice, vice president of construction and development at commercial real estate services firm Levin Management Corporation (LMC).

Signage projects for shopping centers and tenants within LMC’s 95-property, 13 million-square-foot portfolio fall under the jurisdiction the full-service firm’s construction team. Within that capacity, Vice frequently works with property owners and occupants to incorporate signage that brands and distinguishes centers as well as individual storefronts. This role is an extension of the group’s work fitting out individual tenant spaces and orchestrating property renovations, expansions and redevelopments.

In the following interview, Vice talks about the role signage plays at shopping center properties.

Q: Why is signage so important for retail properties and tenants?

Vice: When you see an Apple or Nike logo, the brand identity is so strong that no additional words are needed. To that end, creative, attractive signage can help a business stand apart from the competition (even if they are not a household name). When someone opens a new business, signage is not necessarily a top priority on their list. Further, they may not understand how to use it to their advantage. That’s where we come in. When a tenant leases at a center we manage, we handle everything from start to finish. Our in-house construction department works closely with each tenant and suggests what we think might be attention-grabbing signage that communicates their message to the public. We do our homework and present what we think is the best approach. Ultimately, property owners and retailers spend a lot of time on every facet of their presentation. Signage is an important part of that.

Q: Can you give an example?

Vice: At The Shoppes at Flemington – an open-air lifestyle center in Flemington, N.J. – healthy casual restaurant chain Freshii recently joined the tenant mix. This chain is known for its fresh ingredients and eco-friendly practices. We recommended façade signage that we thought was interesting and really fit the restaurant’s personality. It incorporates Freshii’s logo against a background of green grass. Lifestyle centers, in particular, place a focus on presentation, and retailers always are trying to do something a little unique. Freshii’s signage is a real differentiator for this tenant.

Q: What are some challenges involved with shopping center signage?

Vice: It may sound straightforward, but creating pylon and building/façade signage can be a complex process, in part because it is often restricted by municipal or zoning regulations. In some cases, where regulations are particularly strict, pylon signage may not even be an option for a shopping center. For shopping centers located close to the road, prominent tenant signage on the building façade can help consumers see which retailers are located there. In the case of large centers or those with obstructed visibility from the road, it can be even more difficult for shoppers to see exactly what a center offers.

Q: Can you provide an example of how to solve that second scenario?

Vice: For properties that are set back off the road or have a town-mandated buffer of trees it takes a higher level of creativity to develop signage that both meets town approval and effectively communicates with shoppers. At Post Road Plaza in the Village of Pelham Manor, N.Y., we worked with an architect who designed attractive and colorful monument signs that line the highways bordering property. Each includes a single tenant name. Additionally, we have two tenants at Post Road Plaza – Dave & Busters and a soon-to-open national fitness chain – that occupy a combined 82,000 square feet at the back of the center. We wanted to implement incremental signage to help these tenants, and worked with an architect to present a comprehensive plan. The result: there are now two additional wall signs for these tenants, as well as two new pylon signs.

Q: What are some property signage planning “standards” and newer trends?

Vice: Every property is different, but there are a few tips and tricks we have learned over the years. First, irregular, non-rectangular signage shapes attract the eye more quickly than the more traditional square or rectangle. Similarly, bright colors against strongly contrasting backgrounds enhance both appeal and legibility. Property signage must convey the property’s name and its major retailers. Remember, potential customers in vehicles can read only so many names as they drive past a property; for those with dozens of tenants we recommend listing only key anchors on the pylon. Signage also needs to work both during daylight hours and at night. Lighting is critical. Increasingly, large properties like Fairlane Village Mall in Pottsville, Pa., are incorporating digital reader boards in their pylon signage, which is a great way to communicate special events and tenant promotions to passersby.

Celebrating its 65th anniversary in 2017, Levin Management Corporation (LMC) serves as a trusted single-source commercial real estate services provider for institutional and private owners, offering leasing, property management, accounting, construction management and marketing. The firm helps its clients evaluate options, operate properties and create case-specific solutions to protect and improve asset value. The LMC construction and development department manages the design and construction of complex real estate projects from beginning to end, handling every detail to ensure a successful, on-budget outcome. The team is adept at managing the governmental approval process for redevelopments, including coordinating land use attorneys, architects, engineers and other professionals needed to obtain approvals from various boards and agencies.

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