It pays to ask the women

It pays to ask the women

Property developer gets women focus group to help design mixed-use centre


IN designing shopping centres and mixed-use properties, Trademark Property Co of Fort Worth, Texas, used to do what many developers do: put together teams of professionals like architects, designers and building consultants; send out surveys; and hold community meetings. But in 2005, when it began planning a large mixed-use centre, Watters Creek, for a 21 hectare site in Allen, near Dallas, it decided to consult a group it had never called on before: women.


CEO Terry Montesi first hired two female retail consultants: Claudia A Sagan and J’Amy Owens. But Trademark also invited two dozen women from the Allen area to pick apart its plans for the centre. They included Kirsten Fair, a stay-at-home mother of two, and Debbie Stout, a City Council member, who runs a company that sells business forms.


The women weighed in on dozens of features, like the centre’s layout, landscaping, parking options, pedestrian walkways and outdoor art. The developers ‘asked us about every detail, and then they listened’, Ms Stout said recently. At Watters Creek, Trademark Property discovered that some of the reaction from its women’s focus groups challenged conventional retailing wisdom.


Like many retail developers, Trademark Property was used to installing tall, often ornate, brick or stone buildings, as well as sidewalks, at developments like Market Street, a mixed- used centre it opened in Woodlands, near Houston, in 2004. The core of that mixed-used centre was intended to have a classic Main Street look.


The Watters Creek centre, however, was to be part of a 202 ha planned community whose master plan called for significant green space as part of its environment-friendly design.


The women also wanted a village look and feel, with buildings of various sizes, colours and textures that followed the rolling topography of the area, rather than sitting flat.


The first phase of Watters Creek, which is expected to cover 1.15 million square feet eventually, opened in May. So far, Trademark has studded it with buildings that act mostly as a backdrop to a parklike area with two stone bridges, a pond, a creek, a 10-metre-tall community fireplace, climbable sculptures, and 10 restaurants that have outdoor seating with views of the pond, creek or village green.


The women are delighted. — NYT


Source: Business Times