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Developers find innovative ways to support their communities

May 7, 2018

Competitive distance runner Eric Gelber has raised about $1.1 million for cancer research by running marathons as long as 200 miles. Now his signature Journey Towards a Cure — 12-Hour Endurance Run/Relay, to benefit the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, is set for Oct. 6 at New York City’s Randall’s Island Park. Gelber is an executive vice president at CBRE and a 26-year member of ICSC, and impressive as his contribution surely is, his is only one of hundreds of charitable efforts that raise millions of dollars annually through ICSC members and member companies.

Jami Savage-Gray, a CBRE senior vice president based in Phoenix, is co-chairwoman of the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation’s Beach Ball initiative, which has raised some $1.3 million to benefit the intensive-care unit for newborns. In Dallas, meanwhile, Mickey Ashmore, who is chairman of the CBRE retail services for the Americas unit, heads up the firm’s Retail As Art program, which provides scholarships to high school students in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. CBRE and its employees donated roughly $15.1 million to global charities and disaster relief in 2017 and contributed about 15,000 volunteer hours.

Simon is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Simon Youth Foundation, a program devoted to educating at-risk youth on the verge of dropping out of high school. Since its start in 1998, the foundation has grown to comprise 30 Simon Youth Academies across 12 states, which have helped nearly 16,000 students finish high school and have awarded nearly $17 million in college scholarships.

Westfield, for its part, put forth a three-tiered effort last year: for arts and culture; children’s health and education; and military veterans. Through that veterans’ initiative, the company set out to increase its hiring among military veterans, and indeed such hiring is up by 33 percent at Westfield. In October the company teamed up with Bunker Labs, a nonprofit headed by entrepreneurs who are military veterans themselves and want to empower fellow vets, so that former military personnel can get help with transition into the Westfield work environment. Since 1977, Westfield has supported about 14,000 nonprofit, charity and community organizations across the country.

“CBRE and its employees donated roughly $15.1 million to global charities and disaster relief in 2017 and contributed about 15,000 volunteer hours”

Last year Taubman Centers invested slightly more than $1 million for community causes important to its employees and business partners. Among these were Puerto Rican outreach organizations such as Unidos por Puerto Rico, which is helping to rebuild the hurricane-stricken location of Taubman’s Mall of San Juan. The shopping center served as a base for delivering food, water and other supplies — as well as holiday gifts, later — to local residents after Hurricane Maria.

Bracket Battle, one of San Diego–based ShopCore Properties’ newest programs, quickly became its largest fundraiser. This program, created in partnership with the San Diego Food Bank, launched on March 5 and ended with the April 1 NCAA championship basketball game, with proceeds from the tournament entries benefiting the bank. The goal, to raise enough for 50,000 meals, ended up being more than tripled, to fund 165,000 meals, thanks to landlords, brokers, retailers, staffers and others. “With one in six children in America not knowing where their next meal will come from, we’re pushing our efforts toward fighting hunger,” said President and CEO Luke Petherbridge. ShopCore’s national Dollars, Hours, Pounds program, designed to help alleviate hunger in ShopCore center communities, has already provided some 400,000 meals since early last year.

Dallas-based Weitzman finances annual real estate scholarships at the University of Texas through the ICSC Foundation. The firm also helps support the Genesis Women’s Shelter, the Austin Street Center and the Jewish Family Service, all in Dallas. Founder and Executive Chairman Herbert D. Weitzman has served on the MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors, which handles community outreach and private funding. Weitzman centers sponsor food banks and local fundraisers every year.

The Easton Community Foundation, established in 1999 by Easton Town Center developers Steiner & Associates and The Georgetown Co., has collected some $6.2 million from that Columbus, Ohio, mall’s parking meters and parking tickets over the years, through its Change for Charity program to benefit education, health and social-services causes. “The program has inspired developers and urban environments around the country to create their own meter-and-ticket charity programs,” said Steiner & Associates founder and CEO Yaromir Steiner.

“Avison Young employees from 80 global offices volunteered nearly 7,000 total hours to help support 70 charities on the organization’s fourth annual Global Day of Giving”

The GGP Cares program focuses on the social, environmental and educational needs of children in Chicago. GGP works with Open Books, an organization dedicated to encouraging youngsters to read. In July GGP donated space at its Water Tower Place to the organization for a weekend Pop-Up Book Shop. The firm provides such things as computers and TVs to Chicago’s Lawndale Elementary Community Academy, along with gift cards that teachers can use to purchase school supplies. GGP participates in an annual workplace mentoring program through Big Brothers Big Sisters. Staffers provide educational support and similar help to high school youths to steer them toward post-graduation success. GGP’s Shops at La Cantera, in San Antonio, worked with The Salvation Army on a Parade of Kettles event that raised about $16,000, while The Woodlands (Texas) Mall, north of Houston, held an arts festival to raise funds for the local arts council. At GGP’s Park Place mall, in Tucson, Ariz., a Light the Night event was held in October to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Some 3,000 people participated, helping to raise about $260,000 for that cause.

Kimco Realty gives employees two days off annually for volunteerism at a charity of their choice, according to Leah Landro, the New Hyde Park, N.Y.–based firm’s vice president of human resources. Shopping centers across the portfolio participate in food, clothing and blood drives and in cancer-awareness walks, and the company offers need-based scholarships to the families of employees. Kimco also participates in programs for wounded veterans, fills holiday wish lists for children and has long supported the MercyFirst residential treatment campus, in nearby Syosset, N.Y. In 2016 Kimco’s Sodo Shopping Center, in Orlando, Fla., served as a support center for emergency responders after the Pulse Nightclub shooting, and the next year the firm held memorial vigils. Kimco also supported the Orlando United Day Acts of Love and Kindness campaign.

CBL Properties sponsors systemwide Santa Cares and Bunny Cares programs, according to company PR director Stacey Keating. “They give children with special needs and their families an opportunity to visit Santa and the Easter Bunny before typical mall hours, in a ‘low-sensory’ environment,” she said. CBL participates in the Dragon Boat Festival races in its Chattanooga, Tenn., headquarters city, to help raise funds for the Children’s Hospital at Erlanger. The firm will be recognized this year as the only participant in the event’s history ever to have raised over $100,000. CBL Cares raised about $12,000 last year through employee donations to benefit the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, the Chattanooga Girls Choir, Primary Care Health Partners, Ronald McDonald House and other causes. The firm also participates in United Way’s Day of Caring by enabling employees to volunteer for service projects across the region.

“ShopCore Properties raised enough to fund 165,000 meals for the San Diego Food Bank through its Bracket Battle NCAA basketball championship contest”

A sculpture contest launched this spring by Detroit-based developer Broder & Sachse Real Estate will award one high school art student a $5,000 scholarship and also a $10,000 budget for creating a sculpture. The winning sculpture in this Influence of Innovation, as the contest is titled, will get a permanent place in a midtown Detroit park. Sachse Construction, the company’s construction arm, sponsors the annual Sachse Construction Academy to help address the industry’s skilled-trades gap. This event draws about 500 Detroit high school students to participate in demonstrations and to learn about career options in the vocational trades. “By exposing these students to the right type of training, mentoring and hands-on experiences at an impressionable age, we’re creating pathways for their futures,” said Sachse Construction CEO Todd Sachse.

Developer and property manager NewMark Merrill Cos., of Woodland Hills, Calif., stages a fundraiser breakfast at its Village at the Peaks center, in Longmont, Colo., to benefit the Longmont Humane Society. The program raised nearly $10,000. NewMark’s company Christmas party last year was held at the Los Angeles Union Rescue Mission, where employee care packages were distributed to the residents. At NewMark’s Winston Plaza, in Melrose Park, Ill., employees worked with the Joseph F. Bronge III Memorial Foundation to provide financial relief to the families of fallen or disabled Chicago-area law-enforcement officers.

Local teams of JLL staffers organized benefits at centers across the country last fall for hurricane victims forced into shelters and also coordinated Red Cross disaster relief fund contributions to benefit its displaced employees and others. At JLL’s Retail University, in Atlanta, some 90 attendees learned new skills and also helped assemble hundreds of kits to furnish the Atlanta public schools with backpacks, books, notebooks and similar items. Avison Young employees from 80 global offices volunteered nearly 7,000 total hours to help support 70 charities on the organization’s fourth annual Global Day of Giving, in October. “Giving connects us to others and creates stronger communities,” said Sherry Quan, an Avison Young principal. “Volunteering for even the smallest tasks can make a huge difference in the lives of people, animals and organizations in need.”

By Steve McLinden

Contributor, Shopping Centers Today

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