Networking in New England: ICSC@NE

We recently attended ICSC New England to create connections and experience the latest trends shaping consumer spaces.

Members of our Franklin Studio recently descended upon the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, attending the ICSC New England conference on July 20-21. Intended to create connections and experience the latest trends shaping the spaces where consumers shop, dine, work, play, and gather. ICSC@New England was a chance for our team to showcase our work within the Retail Development Design space while learning more about area colleagues and potential clients, as well.

Food For Thought from ICSC@NE  

We recently caught up with a few attendees, Tanya Castella-Barajas, Ed Damphousse, and Sharon Charwick, to find out what aspects of the conference impacted them personally and professionally. Check out their thoughts below!  

Q: Tell us about a session that you attended at ICSC@NE.  

Sharon: On Wednesday, I attended the session regarding Medtail—the new trend for medical tenants in retail environments. Three speakers were on the panel, two were medical tenants, and one was from Linear Retail, a New England-based developer. It was interesting to hear their perspectives on the trend, and I took away some key information that may be useful in the future. The most common medical tenants include Dental (dominant type), Urgent Care, Optometry, Medical Spas (holistic treatments), and Pet Care (veterinary services). A significant benefit of these medical tenants for developers is a much lower turnover rate—they are making more substantial investments in their spaces. They, therefore, are more likely to be long-term tenants.    

Tanya: One of my most impactful sessions was "Keeping Pace with Change: The New Normal for Restaurants." We heard from four leaders of different restaurant retailers: Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Jersey Mike's, and Franklin Restaurant Group. We learned about how the pandemic still affects how stores are built. For example, Starbucks had to shift its focus to suburban growth with larger footprints while its urban locations were getting smaller. These changes are implemented to keep up with consumers' changing needs and habits. Brian Sommers, Chief Development Officer at Jersey Mike's, said the company has found success getting into the ghost kitchens game. They've partnered with Kitchen United and joined some of their New York locations. Summers noted that this partnership allows Jersey Mike's to focus on the product and manufacturing while Kitchen United handles the expediting and passing over to the carrier. He also mentioned ghost kitchens are a great avenue to test a concept on the market without committing to the investment of a standalone location.

Ed: I took a lot away from the keynote session where Spencer Levy, Global Chief Client Officer & Senior Economic Advisor at CBRE, presented an interesting topic, “2022 Commercial Real Estate Outlook: Reality or Science Fiction.” As someone with a degree in economics, I enjoy digging into numbers, indicators, and trends. While many attending the keynote session were anticipating “doom and gloom” about the dismal state of our economy, Levy assessed that the economic outlook looks promising. We learned that what we are going through (let's not use the ‘R’ word) is going to be a quick cycle and some indicators are already correcting themselves. Retail remains strong and developers continue to be bullish.  I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Levy’s assessment and based on the conversations I was a part of on the exhibit floor, my fellow industry colleagues are optimistic about the future, as well.

Q: Were there any key takeaways from the ICSC@NE that you’d like to share?  

Sharon: Something raised that was an interesting thought was how the movement towards online permitting processes—now a prevalent practice—can hinder the process. In the past, when you had to show up in person to apply for a building permit, it was an opportunity for an open discussion with the building department; questions or concerns could be raised and looked at together over the counter. Now, submitting everything online can sometimes limit any dialog and make the process take longer as the project goes back and forth via online communication. It was interesting to think about as we look to more efficient ways of working in the A+E industry.    

Tanya: As a newcomer to our industry, ICSC@NE was a fantastic learning opportunity for me. It helped put our work at HFA into greater perspective and allowed me to see how our efforts impact people beyond our studio.    

Ed: Something that I always appreciate about ICSC@NE is that it’s all about networking, relationship building, and deal making. I recently attended ICSC Las Vegas and I saw many themes carry over to the New England event. Attendees were out in full force at the numerous receptions, parties, and events. Everyone seemed engaged in conversations and clearly happy to get out from behind their video conference cameras. Since the event took place close to our Franklin studio, it was great to be able to share the experience with over a dozen of our local HFA team members who got to visit with some of our best clients and network with new prospects. It was a great event and we’re all looking forward to next year.

ICSC@NE was an exceptional event that allowed us to come together with other industry peers and current and potential client partners to network, build relationships, and purposefully connect with those driving the retail industry forward in the Northeast. We can't wait for ICSC@NE 2023!

For questions about our work in the retail marketplace industry, reach out to Ed Damphousse, Client Partnerships Lead, (508) 294-4425 ext. 425 or

Written by
Ashley Hayre

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