Enhancing Communities Through Thoughtful Retail

June 21, 2021

Retail businesses are a key component of vibrant, attractive neighborhoods. They are places that draw workers, residents, and visitors throughout the day and long after the workday comes to an end. Curating the right mix of stores, restaurants, and services helps activate the streetscape and creates a sense of community for both patrons and business owners.

Shopping has evolved from its transactional origins into an experience that reflects a community’s social and cultural values. As the convenience of online shopping has become ever more prevalent, Vulcan Real Estate (VRE) has had to rethink the role of retail businesses at our development projects. Shoppers increasingly are seeking out immersive and engaging experiences, and retailers must be nimble to maintain their position in the marketplace and to keep regulars as brand loyalists while enticing new customers. Creating experiential shopping requires retailers to reflect on what it is their community cares about and how to authentically embrace and demonstrate those values through the goods they sell and the services they provide.
The right mix of retail is a vital component of vibrant, enticing neighborhoods.
Cactus in South Lake Union

Different Approaches – One Goal

When it comes to developing a successful retail program, our goal is to curate a roster of tenants best suited to serve the community’s needs. Each project requires a fresh and unique approach that is catered to the neighborhood in which it is located. At the start of the development process, our leasing team meets with neighborhood stakeholders to seek their feedback, to find out what is important to them, and to learn what types of businesses they hope to see incorporated into the new project. These conversations are critical in setting the tone for the retail mix, defining the character of the property, and seamlessly weaving it into the fabric of the local community.
Our goal is to include locally owned and small businesses in each one of our retail programs. Shoppers today look to buy products with purpose as value is no longer the only consideration when making a purchase. Our commitment to partnering with small businesses helps support and enhance the local communities where we develop.
Read on to learn about our recent retail leasing approaches in South Lake Union, the Central Area and Downtown Bellevue.

Our goal is to curate a roster of tenants best suited to serve the neighborhood’s needs.
Terry Avenue retail in South Lake Union

South Lake Union

South Lake Union (SLU) set in motion our community-focused approach to create lasting value wherever we develop. Selecting the right retail tenant mix has been instrumental in developing an engaging environment for office tenants, neighborhood residents, and visitors. At the outset of the project, we made a commitment to prioritize leasing to small business owners that would complement larger brands like Whole Foods, West Elm, Starbucks, and Bartell Drugs. We also sought out retailers that provided hands-on experiences that bring people together. Staying true to these principles for the past 20 years has allowed the neighborhood to develop into a thriving community filled with an array of restaurants and bars and entertainment and service providers.

We embrace a community-focused approach in order to create lasting value wherever we develop.
Whole Foods Market in South Lake Union
SLU is now known for its many restaurants that offer outdoor dining, including Café Hagen, Sam’s Tavern, Tutta Bella, Cactus, Duke’s Seafood, mbar, and more; and fun, experiential uses are scattered throughout the neighborhood. You can learn to cook with lavender or create homemade dim sum at Hipcooks before wandering across the street for a scramble up the Seattle Pinnacle Climbing Wall at REI*. At Flatstick Pub, you can play miniature golf or duffle board while snacking on pizza by local restaurateur Ethan Stowell. Lake Union Park features a model boat pond, interactive displays at MOHAI, and free one-hour rentals of peapod rowboats at The Center for Wooden Boats. Tapster, VRE’s newest tenant at the Lakefront Blocks, provides an interactive experience with 57 self-pour taps, indoor and outdoor swings, and a large outdoor patio, just in time for summer.
To learn more about SLU’s diverse retail offerings, visit the Discover SLU Website for its business directory and interactive map.
Retailers in South Lake Union. From top left: Café Hagen, Portage Bay Café, Duke’s Seafood, Be Luminous Yoga, Sam’s Tavern, Hipcooks, Halal Guys, West Elm, Espresso Vivace, Flatstick Pub, Oculus Eyecare, Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria.
Our community-first approach was also integral to the development process for Jackson Apartments in the Central Area. Early outreach to neighborhood stakeholders helped shape the future project, including the configuration of retail spaces and the types of tenants we would target. The community wanted a grocer to fill the void left by the Red Apple when it closed its doors in 2017, but they also wanted to see opportunities for local, small business owners. Diversity, equity, and inclusion were guiding themes for the Jackson Apartments development and provided the inspiration for the retail pavilion concept, with its three 520 square foot micro retail spaces.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion provided inspiration for the retail pavilion concept at Jackson Apartments.
Jackson Apartments with Retail Pavilion at 23rd & Jackson.
The retail pavilion is located at the prominent southeast corner of 23rd Avenue South and South Jackson Street, within a generous plaza that is part of the project. The kiosks were designed to be move-in ready, with electrical and plumbing already in place, and they share restrooms with the restaurant space inside the west building. Because of these elements, very little upfront capital is required by tenants, making the spaces more affordable compared to conventional retail spaces.
To find entrepreneurs of small businesses whose values and mission aligned with the community’s goals, we partnered with Seattle-based microenterprise development nonprofit Ventures. Ventures leased one of the kiosks and invited small business owners who had completed their business development program to apply to sublease the space. As a result, the first tenant to move into one of the micro-retail spaces at 23rd & Jackson is QueenCare, a Black, female-owned body care company. A second kiosk is home to an urban plant nursery. The founder of bo͝oSH (pronounced bush) grew up in the Leschi/Central Area and attended Garfield High School and Washington State University. The nursery specializes in unique indoor plants and plant related accessories and offers something for all types of home, apartment, or office environments with prices for some plants as low as $10.
Monika Mathews, CEO of QueenCare.
For the restaurant space, we envisioned a small business that would serve both the local community and become a destination. We are excited to welcome family-owned Simply Soulful, opening in late summer 2021 as part of Jackson Apartments retail lineup. The café, which is well known for its brunch items and sweet potato pies, will relocate from its original location in Madison Valley to serve the residents and visitors of the Central Area with home-cooked southern cuisine and a warm, inviting space to gather.
Simply Soulful owners
Simply Soulful Owners Lillian Rambus and mother, Barbara Collins.

Downtown Bellevue

Slated for completion in 2023, VRE’s two large-scale office projects underway in Bellevue will collectively add some 64,000 square feet of retail space to the area. We recognize that Downtown Bellevue already has a thriving retail scene with a diverse mix of national and local brands that are highly sought after by shoppers from the Eastside, Pacific Northwest, and even Vancouver, BC. Our retail strategy for West Main and 555 Tower in Bellevue will leverage the success of the vibrant existing retail by selecting retail tenants that will enhance and complement, rather than compete with, this dynamic center of commerce.
The 2-story retail pavilion at 555 Tower and the retail spaces at the base of West Main will include areas for shopping, indoor and outdoor dining, and socializing to create gathering spaces that are conducive to building community.

Our strategy in Bellevue is to select retail tenants that will complement the vibrant existing retail.
Rendering of Retail Pavilion at 555 Tower.

Our Continued Commitment and Vision for Retail Programming

Retail is a competitive landscape that has been challenged by the conveniences offered by digital shopping. However, many experiences like enjoying a meal on a patio, discovering a new boutique with locally made products, or taking a fitness class in the company of others cannot be replicated online. Our focus for every neighborhood where we develop is to continue to facilitate community building through an exciting retail program that provides patrons with unique experiences and business owners with ample opportunities for growth.

*The Seattle REI Pinnacle Rock Climbing Wall is currently closed owing to COVID-19 precautions.

We strive to create retail programming that provides unique experiences and growth opportunities.
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