Interview with Brett Malky
by Courtney Hall, Dec 12, 2019
We work closely with our community clients to advise them on real estate development trends that we see across the country. Retail and restaurant concepts are an important component, but of equal importance is keeping a community’s residents in mind when developing and redeveloping parts of a city. In this article I’ve interviewed Brett Malky, the founder and CEO of EQA Landmark Communities.
What is your elevator speech for EQA Landmark Communities?
We are developers, founded in 1998. We have done projects from L.A. to Charleston, but most of our work today is in Southwestern, Pennsylvania. We don’t do traditional development projects but our portfolio includes a redeveloped Naval base, master-planned communities, the first condo project in downtown Pittsburgh, and numerous brownfield sites converted to mixed-use developments.
Let’s talk retail development, what is your advice to cities?
From a developer’s standpoint, my motto is “A city know thy customer”. Prospective tenants want to know which retail and restaurant companies are operating in a city. They want to know how those tenants perform (do they underperform or overperform compared to other locations), how does the region look demographically, etc. It’s not just business recruitment but people recruitment. City, region, town – who’s there from a customer standpoint and a retailer standpoint.
How important is understanding customer data?
Demographic and psychographic data probably play a more important role in retail expansion than they ever have. But data alone is not enough. Does a city really understand retail? They need to partner with someone that can help guide them in the retail world.
Beyond customer data, as a developer I want to know:
- What are you as a city doing to recruit new citizens and businesses?
- What makes you unique?
- What are you doing to retain and recruit new talent?
These are all questions that a developer, broker, or retail real estate professional wants to know from a city. Every municipality should be finding ways to attract and hold onto talent. Connections to universities and a clear sense of what you’re doing.
You’re big on the community vision. Explain your thoughts on that.
My company has a calling to assist regions in creating a vision. You must know who you are, what you stand for, and rally your community. Give residents and future residents a clear set of values and vision to get people to stay there and move there. I truly think people want to know the answers to these questions about a community:
- What do you stand for?
- What is your vision?
- Why should I consider making your town my home?
It’s really a new way of thinking and conducting business and it requires a rethink of all the things we have traditionally done.
What is your stance on the future of community development?
At EQA Landmark we really believe the future is in placemaking. There isn’t hypergrowth of big box retailers to become anchor tenants like there used to be. And sometimes those big box retailers want incentives that a lot of communities cannot afford. The key moving forward is placemaking. How do you create the heart of a community? Creating an experience that will compel people to leave their home to come out and dine, and work, and visit, and congregate with friends and family. That’s placemaking – creating a place to have an experience.
The greatest opportunity is for smaller cities and towns. Communities with unique natural attributes, historical places, college towns – they all have tremendous opportunities to create a place or development linked to those assets.
Places like Moberly, Missouri – they’ve got great bones. They’re thinking in the right way and understand they should build on their parks and a great history. Every place has a history, we seek out those opportunities and those places emerge into something new.
You speak passionately about understand the Millennial generation. Why is that generation in particular so important to communities?
Millennials are unlike any other generation. They are going to force a need to create urbanized suburbs. It’s important for developers and communities to understand how they live, how they spend their money, their household formation, etc. A large portion of Millennials are choosing rental over home ownership and family formation is being delayed.
Anything that a baby boomer did, does not exist with this generation. The need to urbanize suburbs is paramount. They want what they love in the city but need it in the suburbs. This new generation wants to be connected to the place they live, and part of that is understanding the values and vision of a community.
What do you say to a city when they don’t have a vision?
I tell them to stop what they’re doing right now and work on that.
For a community, figuring out your vision for the future is extremely important. There are going to be regions that die. There are going to be losers. Which means there are going to be winners.
In the past people just showed up and businesses showed up. That was the past, nowadays with the vastness of the Millennial generation, they don’t just come. This generation isn’t tied down, they want to be connected to place. A lot of people don’t even own homes so they can move. It’s a whole new way of thinking. This new generation cares about wellness, not just health, they really do think differently.
It’s driving whole new conversations and new ways of thinking. You cannot think the way you have in the past about development.
For us as a developer, the number one rule of the future is placemaking.
Do you have any closing remarks?
The research alone is not enough. The vision alone is not enough. Every city needs both. We’re in the dawn of a new day, that requires new thinking. What you’ve done historically won’t work. It is time to wake up and get to work.
EQA Landmark Communities is driven by a passion to help cities, neighborhoods and communities rediscover their innate beauty and greatness. Committed to challenging sites and projects. Going where others choose not to. Follow them on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/eqa-landmark-communities/about/.
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