The Village at Lee Branch
Since 2008 Retail Specialists has been the leasing and property management team for The Village at Lee Branch, a regional lifestyle center in Birmingham, Alabama. Hired by LaSalle Investment Management, when Retail Specialists took over leasing of the development it had mostly local tenants. The property itself needed attention as the landscaping impeded the view of some of the tenants. The Retail Specialists property management team took the approach of treating the asset as if it was its own.
Although anchored by one of the highest producing Publix stores in Alabama, the development still presented a number of challenges. Those challenges coupled with the downturn in the economy, forced the Retail Specialists team to get creative in order to improve the value of the development. Some of the issues included:
- Numerous local tenants that were undercapitalized
- Tenants had subsidized rent structures that were set to mature, which would lead to vacancies
- Endcap initially built for a restaurant was occupied by a massage retailer
- Shared private utilities between the two phases of Lee Branch, though the client only owned Lee Branch Phase I
The leasing team decided to take a long-term view in order to stabilize the shopping center. As the downturn started in 2008 and 2009, the strategy shifted to mitigating excessive vacancy by negotiating short-term leases, while simultaneously executing on the long-term tenant changes. At a high-level, that plan entailed:
- Moving Massage Envy from the end cap to a larger, inline space
- Targeting specific retailers in the trade area that would benefit from being in a Publix-anchored center, focusing on a high-end pet supply retailer
- Reviewing restrictions on food and beverage within the current site plan, taking a larger space and recessing the store front to create outdoor seating. Remodeling a 10,000 square foot box into three smaller spaces specifically for restaurants with a shared grease trap, food and beverage HVAC systems, and expanded handicap accessible restrooms
- Replacing landscaping that would enhance the physical value and customer perception of the development including juniper replacement and seasonal color replacement
- Completed fiscally sound property improvements such as refreshing the signage, resurfacing the parking lots, re-striping the center, painting the façade, improvements to lighting, and making roof repairs to maintain and ensure that value was added to the shopping center
Over time Retail Specialists has been able to re-tenant all of the shop space with national and regional tenants that have better credit, and ultimately increasing revenue with the long-term leasing strategy.
The leasing team developed an effective strategy to re-locate Massage Envy to a larger in-line space, presenting the opportunity for Five Guys Burgers and Fries to move in the large end cap.
The Retail Specialists team took its knowledge of the Publix performance, presenting that data to the Hollywood Feed real estate team, who ultimately relocated their store within the trade area to Lee Branch.
In 2019, Retail Specialists strategically re-leased an Academy Sports & Outdoors anchor space within 90 days of notice with Alabama’s only Dick’s Sporting Goods/Golf Galaxy concept. Two new store fronts have been created, which will lead to continued upgrades in both quality of tenants and rent structure for the owners.
In Q1 2020, Lee Branch sold to new ownership for $41.6M. The new owner has retained Retail Specialists for both leasing and property management based on the recommendation from the asset management team.