COUNTER-SERVICE CAFES, OPEN-AIR gathering spaces and patio dining—these are the essential survival elements of shopping destinations today. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, outdoor shopping and dining destinations have uniquely positioned them- selves to handle the shift toward priorities like social distancing. “Community is the future of retail,” says Mark Toro, managing partner at North American Properties, the developer behind Avalon. “It’s that human energy on the sidewalks and in the patio seating that is attracting people to outdoor retail destinations—not what the stores are selling.” The Alpharetta mixed-use complex, which typically hosts more than 200 events annually, sprang to action to launch adapted gatherings like drive-in concerts and pop-up outdoor markets.
Ponce City Market and Buckhead Village, both of which are managed by Jamestown, likewise amped up their events schedule and health protocols. The former added a host of outdoor events like game-watching with food kiosks, markets for local businesses and increased cleaning schedules. The latter added hand sanitizer stations throughout, implemented no-touch solutions, helped retailers transition to touchless payment systems and hosted pop-up shops.
The pivot has been successful. According to foot traffic analytics platform Placer.ai, Avalon welcomed more than double the number of visitors over 8 months in 2020 as a nearby indoor shopping mall; it’s also added 10 new tenants, including Peloton, Onward Reserve, High Country Outfitters, Biltong Bar and more. “Now more than ever, our community needs places like Avalon to safely gather and satisfy our human need for social interaction,” says Toro. “The community has voted with their feet.”