The CU Real Estate Center recently partnered with the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) to host an inaugural symposium at CU Denver focused on retail real estate in Colorado. The event kicked off with an interview with ICSC Chairman Daniel Hurwitz who shared his perspective on the state of retail real estate and where he sees the industry heading in the future. Keynote speaker Valerie Richardson, vice president of real estate for The Container Store continued on a similar vein, discussing the transformation of the industry in relation to the merging of digital and physical retail and the impact of Millennial and GenZ consumer behavior on the future.
A key feature of the symposium was a session on the evolution of food halls. The food hall concept is a major trend in the retail real estate sector, growing exponentially over the past 10 years—and showing incredible potential in the near future. Phil Colicchio, executive managing director of Colicchio Consulting and a nationally recognized expert in the food and beverage sector shared his expertise on what is driving the food hall craze and its ongoing evolution as the movement matures.
Two informative panel discussions explored the idea of “opportunity amidst uncertainty” from the perspectives of non-traditional retail tenants and non-traditional retail investors. The “experience economy” is changing the retail real estate industry in surprising and dramatic ways, which is providing new avenues for adding vibrancy, diversity and curated experiences for the consumer that are also attracting new kinds of tenants and investors.
Rounding out the day was walking tour of the Dairy Block food hall in downtown Denver, located in the historic block known as LoDo. Once home to the Windsor Dairy, it is now a buzzing urban micro-district that boasts 15 shops, the Milk Market (a 17,000-square-foot food hall), a luxury co-working space and a 172-room boutique hotel. The space is an all-local mix of takeout and dine-in restaurants and bars run by Colorado chef Frank Bonanno. The tour gave attendees firsthand exposure to the creative retail concepts that are popping up in the Mile High City and provided a fitting end to the immersive morning program.
As part of the symposium series, CU Boulder students and select alumni—who are current and past recipients of an ICSC scholarship created exclusively for CU real estate students—were treated to an intimate student-focused dinner with Hurwitz and Richardson. Over the course of the evening, they both shared professional stories and offered compelling insights to the unique opportunities offered by the retail side of today’s real estate job market.