Amenities shine in integration of community and retail

Artech Retail of Chattanooga, Tenn., employs approximately 45 professionals in four studios. The firm finds that shoppers today want more convenience. One way to achieve that is to get away from the car — and traffic in particular “Traffic is starting to bother people, so they're wanting to be closer to where they live with their shopping,” says David Hudson, principal. “That's leading to a need for mixed-use projects — very pedestrian-friendly and urban.”

Hudson points to a trend toward more downtown retail projects. “People are realizing that they can't simply continue to move out from the cities, and that they have to be smarter with use of land,” he says.

Another trend the firm is participating in is that of integrating retail as part of a larger community neighborhood. “Part of that is creating exciting outdoor spaces, and treating the outside of a building as a room,” Hudson says. “We're focusing more heavily on pedestrian amenities and pedestrian areas to make the shopping experience more pleasant.”

Recent urban projects for Artech include Loveman's on Market in Chattanooga. Loveman's was originally a department store that opened back in the 1990s. The Loveman's building eventually was sold and became Profitt's department store. Then, several years ago, the building was abandoned and has remained empty. The abandoned historic building was prime for urban revitalization. “Our job is to convert the upper levels of the project into housing and the lower levels into retail and other commercial space,” Hudson says. “So we're creating a mixed-use project. We're also going to place the building on the historic register.”

Loveman's on Market will consist of approximately 170,000 sq. ft. — 70,000 of which will become retail, and 100,000 of which will become housing.

Another urban, mixed-use project on the slate for Artech is Creekwood Crossing power center in Bradenton, Fla., a 380,000-sq.-ft. planned unit development. “The idea was that the retail center fit in with the residential,” Hudson explains. “So there are extensive sidewalks, landscaping and preserved areas. Those sorts of things work the project into the community.”

Creekwood Crossing, located at a main interstate intersection in Bradenton, will contain a Belz, Kmart and Lowe's Home Improvement, among other retailers. Other Artech projects in Florida, New Jersey and Colorado are in preliminary stages of development. All will focus on being community-oriented and pedestrian-friendly.

In project management, the firm sees another trend. “The days of an easy retail project are over,” Hudson says. “It seems like there are no more good sites — so every site comes along with an assortment of challenges. The juggling of all the complex issues on a project is such that you need a project manager to handle all of the issues. That's something we feel we do very well because we offer strong project management skills.”