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Fresh Ideas: How Would Students Revitalize a Foundering Mall?

March 24, 2022

This year’s case study for the ICSC Foundation Case Competition hit on the big topic on marketplaces industry’s mind: the revitalization of a foundering mall.

Brad Hutensky, former ICSC chairman and CEO and founder of Hutensky Capital Partners, cooked up the case study. ICSC supplied the four competing schools — Baruch College, California State University Northridge, Indiana University and Loyola Marymount University — with demographic information, a rent roll, an evaluation of current expenses and a map of surrounding land uses.

Students were tasked with choosing to:

  • invest additional dollars in the mall and revive it
  • change the focus of the mall from apparel to some mix of entertainment, office, service and convenience retail
  • allow the property to empty out, retain the supermarket, demolish the mall and reuse the 60 acres for multifamily or some other in-demand use.

Scroll down to watch the students’ presentations

The competition, held March 5, helped undergraduate students interested in the marketplaces industry learn more about the real-world issues they’ll face in their future careers. The contest, which took place entirely online this year, is part of the foundation’s efforts to nurture the next generation of talent for the marketplaces industry.

Each team used its members’ classroom experience and research of similar situations to defend its chosen strategy. The teams had a week to analyze materials, strategize and submit a seven-minute pre-recorded presentation. Four judges — former VEREIT CEO and current ICSC chairman Glenn Rufrano, Retail Property Solutions principal Beverly Ricks, Acadia Realty Trust senior vice president and co-head of acquisitions Reginald Livingston and Cushman & Wakefield Retail Services Americas leader Sara Gougarty — reviewed the presentations and accompanying documents before questioning each team for 10 minutes.

“This competition was designed to be more accessible to schools with varied levels of experience in the case competition arena,” said ICSC manager of student engagement and university partners James Dulin. “As such, each team was paired with an industry advisor to help them construct their presentation and prepare them to defend their strategies. PGIM Real Estate executive director Alison Hallberg worked with Baruch. Edens senior vice president of investment Nicole Shiman worked with Indiana. Primestor Development vice president of leasing Luis Barrientos worked with Cal State Northridge. And Simon CRE founder and CEO Joshua Simon worked with LMU. Hallberg, Shiman and Simon each are among ICSC’s 4 Under 40. Each advisor was allowed two hours to collaborate with their assigned teams.

The ICSC Foundation is working to recruit a larger group of schools to compete in next year’s event.

See the presentations below, for which the teams operated under anonymous names to limit potential bias.

Baruch College

“The Sunstone Group” aimed to redevelop the mall into a mixed-use property with office and entertainment space.

California State University Northridge

“Sequoia Investment” decided to keep the mall in its current form but ramp up investment to bring it in tune with current consumer tastes.

Indiana University

“Green Tree Capital” decided to convert the mall to a mix of retail, health and office uses and emphasize the sustainability of the renovation to attract tenants and investors.

Loyola Marymount University

“The Lions Group” wanted to retain the supermarket and demolish the mall to make way for more convenience-oriented tenants.

The judges awarded the Indiana University group first place. One judge noted that the solution was not what the judge would have pursued, Dulin said. “However, they crafted a strong argument to support their decisions.”

Rufrano felt he learned as much from the students as they did from him. “We were trying to teach these students to work with problems that are unsolvable,” he said. “What matters is how they approach the problem and how they present.”

By Brannon Boswell

Executive Editor, Commerce + Communities Today

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