It took something special to pull Will Voegele away from his Cleveland home of some 40 years.
The 59-year-old, an experienced retail and mixed-use specialist, is now resettled in Hermosa Beach, Calif., near the Santa Monica headquarters of Macerich — which recruited him in August as executive vice president and chief development officer. Voegele launched his career several decades ago at the Cleveland-based Richard E. Jacobs Group as a tenant coordinator. More recently, he has held senior posts in mixed-use development at Brookfield Properties and in commercial development at Forest City Realty Trust. “I look at this position and look back at the last 30 years and see it as just perfect preparation for this role,” said Voegele.
Macerich specializes in the acquisition, leasing, management, development and redevelopment of regional malls throughout the U.S. The company owns some 51 million square feet of real estate, primarily through interests in 47 regional shop-ping centers in dense urban markets on the West Coast and in Arizona, as well as in Chicago and metro Washington, D.C. “As I looked at the opportunity with Macerich, by the time I understood the properties and the development they were doing and then really came to appreciate the people and the culture and the sense of mission, it was just too compelling an opportunity not to embrace,” Voegele said.
In this new position, he oversees mixed-use and master-planned project development, assesses opportunities for multiuse potential across the firm’s portfolio and helps guide the design processes. He reports to Macerich President Edward C. Coppola. “Will brings us significant mixed-use development leadership, which we will certainly tap for exciting projects across the country,” said Coppola. The projects include several vacant boxes that Sears formerly occupied.
“This world where boxes go dark could look challenging on the surface. But the reality is, when you own exceptional real estate in exceptional markets, those vacant boxes become opportunities”
Voegele graduated from Miami University with an architecture degree. Over the course of his career he became involved with some of the top mixed-use projects in the U.S., includ-ing Ballston Quarter, in Arlington, Va.; the renovation of Short Pump Town Center, near Richmond, Va.; and Station Square, in Pittsburgh. He comes to this new job with several goals in mind. “For me the focus starts with really understanding our mission and making sure it is filtering down through the organization that I am responsible for — which is development, construction, design, what we call preconstruction, and also tenant coordination,” he said.
Another priority will involve addressing vacancies, notes Voegele. “This world where boxes go dark could look challenging on the surface,” he said. “But the reality is, when you own exceptional real estate in exceptional markets, those vacant boxes become opportunities to append extensions of these projects and often in mixed-use formats.” Additional entertainment concepts, food-and-beverage, fitness facilities, and high-quality residential, hotel and office uses are among the possibilities.
His third focus is more strategic and more long-term. “Even where opportunities aren’t present right now, we are stepping back and looking at the real estate and seeing what other strategies might be brought to bear, to leverage,” Voegele said.
“When you see people enjoy-ing the property and you see the sales reflecting the careful execution of the vision and the plan, it is just a really satisfying thing”
He points to the development of Ballston Quarter as being among the milestones of his career, but he notes too that those have been many. “I had a huge exposure to transformational projects, which take much more effort,” he said. “They start with great vision but also [involve] overcoming all the hurdles that are necessary to execute on that vision. Much of my life was spent doing these three-, four-, five-year-long master-planned, mixed-use developments that start with that process.”
With Ballston Quarter — a classic three-story urban shopping mall with offices above the retail — Voegele and his team brought in a residential component, by which they managed to virtually turn the traditional mall paradigm inside out. “It was one of the most exciting but also challenging projects, where a huge amount of place-making was brought to bear,” he recalled. “But when you see people enjoy-ing the property and you see the sales reflecting the careful execution of the vision and the plan, it is just a really satisfying thing.”
On the personal and recreational side, Voegele enjoys playing the guitar. “It is my favorite way to relax, and for me it is another creative outlet,” he said. “Especially with songwriting, it’s a way to bring a number of elements together to create some-thing better than you might have ever started with. That is also a collaborative process, so both in music and in real estate, the collaboration is what leads to great outcomes.”
Even today, Voegele’s passion for the retail and mixed-use business remains palpable. “I just want everyone,” he said, “to see the passion and excitement I have for the opportunities at Macerich, to apply that to our properties and to be a part of this great team.”
By Ben Johnson
Contributor, Shopping Centers Today