The Park City Club at Preston Center was bustling with energy at last week’s ULI Futurespace Breakfast. Tables conversed over Eggs Benedict as to what the future held for retail and office environments. Howard Altshuler with EY, Chair of the ULI North Texas Programs Committee, introduced our esteemed moderator, Marsha Getto-Aikens of Gensler. Marsha began the conversation with backgrounds on each expert panelist: Clint McDonnough with EY, Joshua McLeod with Regus Group and Zac Porter with Retail Street Advisors. Marsha’s first heavy hitting question inquired as to how North Texas is being perceived throughout the country. Clint was quick to point out that DFW was passed up for the 2016 GOP Convention and didn’t even make it into the Olympics finals round. “We’re still cowboy hat and boots” as far as the rest of the world is concerned. He noted that the Dallas Regional Chamber has done a great job at attracting corporate relocations to the Metroplex as a whole, distancing itself from any strong preference for a particular city within the Metroplex.
Next, we focused on trends in the workplace and what the office of the future looks like. Josh with Regus explains that workers are happier when they have the choice and freedom to work in the most productive, comfortable and convenient environment –which may not be in the office at all. The office was a status symbol but today that has changed and the incoming millennial workforce has a different set of needs. People spend less time at their desk and more time collaborating, changing the workspace environment. Josh also adds that technology is enabling people to be highly productive anywhere and frees up overhead costs. We are always connected; when a web conference can happen anywhere, you can work anywhere. Regus is even thinking farther into the future to the age of autonomous vehicles, allowing people to be productive during their commute.
Zac’s retail perspective rounds out the conversation noting that enclosed malls are far and few between while urban, mixed-use center continue to prevail. Technology has transformed the world of retail and there are clear winners and losers. The losers: bookstores and big box. The winners: fashion and dining. Bonobos is a great example of a menswear retail shop that has figured out how to reduce its footprint with a fitting shop that drives their e-commerce. He notes “WalkUPs” (Walkable Urban Communities) receive 75% more rent and lease 25% faster than competitors in other retail formats. He also mentions that for every 5 mph speed reduction on a street, retail sales increase 30%.
But Clint is a baby boomer and has trouble wrapping his head around the mobility concept as we continue to apply it in the workplace setting. He believes in the qualitative aspect of a face-to-face conversation, and looks forward to how the workplace will respond to that need. He also adds that the growing millennial population prefers downtown and uptown locations, but the suburbs are getting smarter and have figured out how to create urban, dense environments within the core of their cities. Millennials will have plenty of options for a mixed-use environment, so the ultimately the infrastructure and transportation of our city is key to ensuring the success of our downtown core.
If you missed Futurespace, be sure to join us at our next event – ULI North Texas presents “Competitive Cities: Critical Factors in Location Choices“ at the Park City Club on Thursday August 7th at 7:30 AM. Registration is now open. Find out how cities are adapting to new realities when making decisions about spending limited resources to maximize their economic development potential and get a free copy of ULI’s Infrastructure 2014: Shaping the Competitive City. The report’s author, ULI’s Rachel MacCleery, will be the keynote speaker