Access to Location Information Anywhere
David Beitz, EDENS, GIS Director

astrickBACKGROUND  There’s nothing worse than unleased space in a shopping center, for the developer, tenants, and the community. Empty space translates into economic despair. EDENS is a privately held owner and developer of shopping centers on the East Coast of the United States that takes a long-term view on building community, successful leasing criteria, and meeting the retail needs of the community. For EDENS, a healthy acquisition, development, redevelopment, and leasing strategy depends on easy access to quality retail market data. Most importantly, that data becomes easy to access when it is referenceable by location. EDENS has created a location-based leasing tool that is accessible on the iPad to provide leasing agents with all the information they need in the field to close a deal at their fingertips.


Summary
This interview discusses elements of a location- based leasing tool and the importance of understanding the nature of the data needed to successfully implement a mobile application.


LBX: Tell us about EDENS. You develop community-oriented shopping centers. What does that mean?

BEITZ:  We develop shopping centers where the focus is on a retail mix that complements the demographics around the trading areas. We have 125 shopping centers on the East Coast. We develop new properties from the ground up, and redevelop existing shopping centers. Once we have acquired and developed properties, our mission is to keep those existing properties leased. The key to keeping properties leased is understanding the changes in any particular trade area, so we focus on getting retailers into shopping centers where they are going to be successful.

LBX: What issues need to be addressed to make sure the retailers are successful?

BEITZ:  There are three things that are critical to success:

1. Picking the right location: We need to be as informed as possible around the location. For example, to determine if the location would be a good t for a Whole Foods store, we compare demographics of a target site to the demographics of 5 or 6 other locations nearby. Using GIS, we are able to show the incomes and population density of the market through thematic maps. Our objective is to purchase or develop a shopping center that is in an area of high population and high incomes, because that’s what often drives success for our retailers. This deeper analysis is a competitive advantage for everyone involved.

2. Understanding the site for development or re-development: We need the ability to present multiple scenarios or a variety of sites in the market to potential retailers. As a developer, we will present 5 to 6 sites to retailers to determine the best site to choose and to attract di erent retailers to the site.

3. Operations: Once the site has been developed, the goal is a fully leased shopping center. Changes in the market area are monitored. This is critical to success, and the information we collect researching the site morphs into marketing materials to get retailers interested in the space.

LBX: What do you mean by GIS?

BEITZ: GIS is a big category that includes computer mapping and demographics, any spatial data that can work into that system, including aerial imagery, demographic data, competitive market data, sourcing other location-based data such as tra c counts, active residential developments, and eld investigation com- ments that enter our Marketplace database.

LBX:  What trends or factors are driving the leasing process?

BEITZ: The big challenge is the motivation of various leasing agents. Some leasing agents’ goals are just to ll space without concern for the long-term success of the retailer or the shopping center. But our goal is to get the right retail mix for long-term viability and success. In today’s economic climate in particular, you need to be more hypersensitive to the retail mix.

If developers and property managers are only looking at the financials, then they don’t really care. But if you care about the long term then you have to look at the spectrum of motivations for filling space. For example, you don’t want to overlap similar use even if you have two willing tenants. You don’t want retailers that directly compete against each other, so for example you wouldn’t want to put two ne dining Italian experiences in the same center.

As a privately held company, we are not governed by quarter-to-quarter results. We have the corporate structure that supports a dedication to long-term thinking, to design, sustainability, and community building.

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DAVID BEITZ EDENS, GIS Director

LBX: What determines the financial health of a shopping center?

BEITZ:  The nancial health of a shopping center is usually determined by the quality and term of the leases, as well as the demographics within a 3-mile radius of the shopping center. You want high household income and dense population around your site. EDENS is very competitive when it comes to density and income within the 3-mile radius.

We use location information to connect the invisible dots that build value. Our sta and investment team ask us a lot of spatially challenging questions, such as, how do our sites compare to Apple retail sites? Anytime we do an acquisition, our investment folks want to see competition within a 3-mile radius of the site we are considering – show 5 or 6 centers nearby, tra c counts nearby, new roads, subdivisions, and growth rates. The mapping component answers lots of different questions in one view.


“We use location information to connect the invisible dots that build value. Our staff and investment team ask us a lot of spatially challenging questions, such as, how do our sites compare to Apple retail sites?”


FIGURE 1. Trenholm Plaza Shopping Center and the retail stores within the three-mile competitive radius. Graphic courtesy of EDENS.
FIGURE 1. Trenholm Plaza Shopping Center and the retail stores within the three-mile competitive radius. Graphic courtesy of EDENS.

LBX:  You are rolling out a new location-based sales tool called iMap which will be accessible on an iPad. Tell us about that.

BEITZ:  We’ve been working on it for about 2 years. We needed a system to push out the location information to non-GIS users, in particular to leasing agents out in the market. We originally thought of a desktop application and switched to the iPad because of the importance of enabling leasing agents in the eld to access demographic, retailer, thematic map, and other internal information.

We designed an application that allows a leasing person to follow a lot of di erent workflows including moving between property loca-tions, zooming in to the site level, and integrating CAD les and color coding site plans. We also built in an automated marketing kit that always pulls the latest information on demographics, the site plan with rent roll, pictures, and a competition aerial into a pdf that can be emailed from the field.

LBX: Tell us about your Marketplace database, and the impact that the data required had on your choice of applications to use.

BEITZ: We’ve been using GIS for 13 years, and our focus was on turning out maps and analysis, and building demographic databases that feed the website and internal systems. The sta was asking spatially challenging questions that we couldn’t answer without access to our Marketplace database, which was managed by IT. Like many other companies, we are no di erent; the IT department and the GIS department were silo’d.

We have an in-house database of 3500 properties, called Marketplace. Anytime we are dealing with a site, information is entered into the Marketplace database. The problem was that asset managers, leasing and acquisition people had no real way to see how the shopping centers relate to the sites they were working on. The sites were referenced by the name of the shopping center, which wasn’t particularly helpful when someone didn’t know the name of the center, or that it was at the corner of Mead and Broadway, or in a particular town. The IT guys tried to use a Google API, but every time they tried to use it, it would crash… so they realized that if they can’t get the maps to work properly, then all the data we’ve collected is useless. That’s when GIS and IT started working together and we got onto ESRI’s ArcServer.

We needed a way to capture information and access volumes of information quickly including unstructured data, reports, word documents, our Marketplace database, and third party retail data. Unless the information is spatially driven, it has little value.


FIGURE 2. This site plan graphic shows the site plan view after it was converted from CAD to a geodatabase in preparation for display in our new iMap application. Graphic courtesy of EDENS.
FIGURE 2. This site plan graphic shows the site plan view after it was converted from CAD to a geodatabase in preparation for display in our new iMap application. Graphic courtesy of EDENS.

LBX:  How did you build the app?

BEITZ: When we first started looking at the project, we wanted to build an in-house GIS data hub to serve several applications. We hired GIS Incorporated to focus on the systems integration and programming as well as TrueMatter LLC to focus on design and usability. A lot of our thought process in addressing a site for development or redevelopment is to start with the big picture and to work down to the site level. That’s how we built iMap to allow people to follow that same thought process through the application…go from macro to micro.

Our focus was on the data. We found that random APIs available from different geo or location-based platforms were not e ective for the type of data we needed to access. We needed access to the best retailer data available. Some people add the mapping component after some initial phases of the project. We focused first on the spatial data component, so that it was all seamlessly integrated. We always wanted to build a GIS data hub because all information in real estate is location-based. Once we got the ArcGIS server hub, we could support other groups within the organization.


FIGURE 3. This graphic illustrates the spending habits of 12 Tapestry Lifemode profiles within a 10 or 15 minute drivetime of East Greenwich, RI. Graphic courtesy of EDENS.
FIGURE 3. This graphic illustrates the spending habits of 12 Tapestry Lifemode profiles within a 10 or 15 minute drivetime of East Greenwich, RI. Graphic courtesy of EDENS.

LBX: What types of data do you use?

BEITZ: We use our Marketplace database and AGG data, as well as the Esri Tapestry and LifeMode dataset that is included in Business Analyst. You need the premium version of Business Analyst to get down to the block level of the Tapestry and LifeMode data. This is great data; it segments people into different lifestyle segments so that we can sort life modes by how much they spend in the marketplace. For example, “Upscale Avenues” spend $500,000 within an 8-minute drive time. It’s more important to be able to see where the higher spending households are clustered and not just see the higher incomes or higher density populations. For desktop applications, we tap into other relevant county data.

LBX: What advice do you have for companies struggling to integrate more long-term thinking into their operations?

BEITZ: I think that longer-term thinking is only possible when leaders within the company have a strong vision for where they want to go and the discipline to stay the course through execution. In our case, building a spatial database as an IT foundation has enabled us to produce iMap and hopefully more spatially enabled applications will follow.