Cedar Realty Trust Brings Appetite for “Food Deserts”
By Dennis Kaiser
Port Washington, NY-based Cedar Realty Trust is fundamentally retooling its strategy in the face of an ultra-challenging retail landscape. That encompasses diversifying its portfolio and turning its sights toward urban mixed-use redevelopment in “food deserts,” anchored by high-quality grocers. Connect Media asked Bruce Schanzer, the REIT’s CEO, to share a few insights about the trends shaping the retail sector in our latest 3 CRE Q&A.
Q: How has Cedar Realty Trust’s strategy evolved in today’s challenging retail climate? A: Over the last eight years, Cedar has honed its strategic focus from the ownership of approximately 140 disparate retail assets in the eastern U.S., to roughly 60 premier grocery-anchored shopping centers from D.C. to Boston, and now to a focus on redeveloping the centers we own in the highest density urban submarkets within our regional footprint.
Our plan contemplates executing mixed-use redevelopment projects at these centers, thereby focusing our financial and human capital on the most dynamic and defensive parts of the evolving retail ecosystem. The reason for this continued refinement of our strategy is a recognition that retail is changing and retailers are more sensitive to operating stores in high-quality locations. In addition, we see the migratory pattern of millennials leading them to settle in many of the highly-populated areas where our assets are situated and where we intend to invest.
Lastly, the people who already live in many of these neighborhoods struggle with access to fresh foods and lack well-merchandised retail assets or high-quality residential offerings. In executing our redevelopment plans in these urban markets, we hope to do well for our investors while we do good for these communities, and thereby fulfill a noble ideal of being an exemplary corporate citizen and steward of investor capital.
Q: How does your approach to incorporating more mixed-use into the portfolio stand out among competitors in the retail industry? A: Put simply, our approach is ‘people-first.’ We invest an extraordinary amount of time learning about the current needs and challenges of a community through our communication with residents and key public leaders. In most cases, the solutions that meet the needs of everyday people are also the ones that make the best financial sense for our own stakeholders. For our mixed-use redevelopments, we’re finding that the fundamental needs still revolve around access: access to fresh foods, access to affordable transportation, access to quality housing and access to jobs. This feedback has guided our approach to our recent large-scale initiatives.
Q: What can investors expect from Cedar Realty Trust in the coming years? A: Investors can expect to reap the rewards of our streamlined core grocery-anchored portfolio, coupled with the ongoing execution of our three ambitious urban mixed-used redevelopment projects. Cedar aspires to continue focusing its financial and human capital on nimbly navigating the company ahead by honing its core portfolio and aggressively executing its urban redevelopments.
Dennis Kaiser is Vice President of Content and Public Relations for Connect Commercial Real Estate. Dennis is a communications leader with more than 30 years of experience including as a journalist and in corporate and agency marketing communications roles. He is responsible for Connect’s client content operations and is involved in a range of initiatives ranging from content strategy, message development, copywriting, media relations, social media and content marketing services.
In his most recent corporate communications roles, he led a regional public relations effort across Southern California for CBRE, played a key marketing role on JLL’s national retail team, and was responsible for directing the global public relations effort at ValleyCrest, the nation’s largest commercial landscape services company.
In addition to his vast commercial real estate experience, Dennis has worked on communications and launch strategies for a number of residential projects such as Disney’s Celebration in Florida, Ritter Ranch in Palmdale California (7,200 homes, 22,000 acres), WaterColor in Florida and PremierGarage in Phoenix.
Dennis’s agency background included firms such as Idea Hall and Macy + Associates. He has earned an outstanding reputation with organization leaders as a trusted advisor, strategic program implementer, consensus builder and exceptional collaborator.
Dennis has developed and managed national communications programs for Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, both public and private. He’s successfully worked with journalists across the globe representing clients involved in major-breaking news stories, product launches, media tours, and company news announcements.
Dennis has been involved in a host of charitable and community organizations including the American Cancer Society, Easter Seals, BoyScouts, Chrysalis Foundation, Freedom For Life, HOLA, L.A.’s BEST, Reach Out and Read, Super Bowl Host Committee, and Thunderbirds Charities.
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