When Promenade at Coconut Creek opened in 2008, the 23-acre, mixed-use property was already cementing its position in the community as a vital place for residents. The vision was to give the growing community of Coconut Creek an urban village where people could work, play and gather in a downtown setting.
Naysayers questioned the timing of its debut. Opening amid the rocky economic times of the Great Recession, Promenade was bringing upscale shopping to Coconut Creek. Quickly, the pessimists were proved wrong. The open-air shopping center had more than 50 retailers and restaurants commit to the development.
Interest in Promenade never waned, and its popularity has continued to grow in nine years.
Under new management by Hill Partners, a Charlotte, North Carolina, national commercial real estate firm that specializes in shopping center development, the lifestyle center is in good hands, says Hill Partners president Robert H. Spratt Jr.
Spratt has overseen and developed several popular shopping centers, such as Barefoot Landing, an outdoor shopping village with a 27-acre lake set along the Intracoastal Waterway in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and the Old Post Office Pavilion, an urban entertainment center between the White House and the Capitol on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., that is one of the city’s top tourist attractions.
Hill Partners acquired Promenade in April 2016.
“What was really attractive to us was how integral it was to the community. That is something we look for, whether we’re developing a property or acquiring it,” Spratt says. The profile of the shopper, too, was a good fit. “The retailers and restaurants are geared to a more-affluent and well-educated consumer,” he adds. “We do have a long history with Florida, and we’re already looking at other acquisitions on the east side and the west side of Florida.”
POINTS FOR BEING GREEN
Instrumental, too, in Hill Partners’ interest was Promenade’s commitment to sustainability, which was in place from the beginning. It is one of the first major developments in the Southeast to earn recognition from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an organization dedicated to resource efficiency. Promenade’s designers implemented systems to reduce water and energy consumption and gas emissions.
In 2010, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded Promenade LEED Silver Certification. Features such as public transportation access, parking for hybrid vehicles, and dedicated areas for recycling contributed to the designation.
“For lifestyle centers, such as Promenade, everything needs to work in unison,” Spratt says.
Another selling point was how the shopping center had become embedded “into the fabric of the community,” and that it had “made an emotional connection. This is invaluable,” Spratt says. “Like any property, the more well-regarded it is, the higher the value.”
But Spratt says Hill Partners has no interest in building up Promenade and selling it off to make a profit.
“We view this as the downtown of Coconut Creek,” says Spratt, who intends to bring to Promenade some of what has made Hill Partners’ other properties successful. “We want to continue to make sure that Promenade stays entrenched in the community, but we’ll also refine that a bit,” he says. Plans for more integrated activities are at the top of the list.
“Promenade had special events, but there needs to be some more attention paid to these, so we’re working on some that we know customers really like,” Spratt says. He mentions holiday events, including a safe Halloween gathering, and building on the Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations. “We added more lights [last season] and we’ll take it to another level this holiday season,” he says.
Other Hill Partners properties have had success with wine festivals and arts and crafts festivals, Spratt says. “We began an art festival in one of our centers, and a few thousand people attended. Now we have 40,000 people showing up,” he says. Events will target the many types of customers who visit Promenade. “Something that appeals to families with small children may not be as attractive to our 20-something customer base. We get that, so we’ll make sure that is considered.”
GIVE THE CUSTOMERS WANT THEY WANT
Since acquiring the property, Hill Partners has been conducting what Spratt calls “deep dive” market research to find out what customers want to see added—“what they like and what they don’t like,” he says. About 450 people were surveyed during business hours.
Spratt says the surveys intentionally were not conducted during the holiday season, nor during tourist season, but during time periods when responses would come from regular customers. “There were some things that came out of that, which were very informative that will help us to better focus things like special events, new retailers and our social media,” he says. “We can learn how to better serve the community by understanding who our customer is. Then, we are positioned better to move forward, and you will start to see improvements happening.”
One of the improvements already underway has its roots in those surveys as well as the mall’s social media: parking.
“Parking at times can be especially challenging,” Spratt acknowledges. “Friday and Saturday nights are our pinch points, so we’re working with surrounding property owners and the city to improve that and make it even more convenient for customers. We’re getting ready to implement some solutions.”
Hill Partners is awaiting approval of final plans to convert a grassy area on the north side of Promenade into more parking; also, it will lease some extra parking spaces from Monarch High School.
“We’re making strides to improve the situation,” Spratt says.
DON’T MESS WITH A GOOD THING
While he declines to name new retailers coming onboard, Spratt says there are some “key spaces” up for grabs. “One was where Banana Republic was previously,” he says. “Later this year, we will be in a position to announce a handful of new additions.”
One thing that won’t change is the character of Promenade at Coconut Creek.
“Our philosophy is not to homogenize with all national tenants,” he says. “You have to have national tenants because they do draw shoppers, but you want to emphasize local and regional retailers and restaurants because that’s what creates the uniqueness and special nature of the project.”
Spratt says his company “needs to keep things fresh to create an experience that keeps people coming back.” He says he’s proud of Promenade’s many firsts and promises they’ll continue.
In December 2016, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant opened its first South Florida location in Coconut Creek. “That is a big coup for us. That is the No. 1-volume restaurant for that company in Florida.” In 2015, upscale movie theater Silverspot Cinema opened its first South Florida location at Promenade. As of May, there were 35 stores and boutiques and 14 restaurants at the center, plus almost 48,000 square feet of office space.
“The restaurants are bringing people in, the apparel stores are bringing people in,” Spratt says.
So what about the indications that in-person shopping is beginning to take a back seat to online shopping?
“We have store owners in Promenade who know their customers by name, who call them personally on the telephone when they get a new clothing line in,” Spratt says.
“That’s community building, and that’s something that can’t be replicated on the internet.”
Address: 4443 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m; Sunday, noon-6 p.m.; individual store hours may differ.
Info: 954.376.6976; thepromenadeatcoconutcreek.com
Clothing stores: Chico’s, New York & Company, Lane Bryant, Gymboree, Francesca’s
Dining: Bar Louie, Ciao Cucina & Bar, World of Beer, Red Rock Oasis & Grill, Salad Creations, Batter Co., Starbucks Coffee
Specialty shops: Sur La Table, Guitar Center, Silverspot Cinema, Orange Theory Fitness, Venetian Nail Spa, Barker Animation Art Gallery, Learning Express Toys, Lovin’ Olive, Massage Envy