Neonopolis owner seeks new deals at trade show

Rohit Joshi wasn’t waiting for customers to come to him. No, his team was actively recruiting them Monday at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual convention, RECon.

At the same time, the Neonopolis owner was manning his own booth, chatting with old friends and making new ones while touting a food court plan that he is ready to execute.

In Las Vegas through Wednesday, RECon is expecting as many as 35,000 people, up from the 32,000 who attended last year. Council spokesman Jesse Tron said the uptick is a reflection of the state of the retail real estate industry and the economy. Attendance is edging closer to pre-recession numbers, which ran 40,000 when the show was really healthy.

“There’s a renewed optimism and a flurry of activity from a deal-making standpoint this year, more so than in years past. People aren’t just keeping in touch,” Tron said.

For Joshi, this show is an important step toward filling Neonopolis with much-needed tenants.

“There’s a very small disposable income in downtown so we had to rethink that and say let’s get into food, beverage and entertainment,” he said.

Joshi is looking to fill the first floor of the downtown center with at least 24 fast-food restaurants by the end of 2014. Already, he said, he has had interest from Focus, Fiesta and Yum brands, but he couldn’t release specifics. However, those brands include Schlotzsky’s, Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon, Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, so think along those lines.

“We are very, very excited about this project,” Joshi said.

When Krave Massive opens in mid-June, that club, along with Drink & Drag, is expected to attract 20,000 people each weekend to Neonopolis.

“The more these hipsters are coming with Zappos and all that, they’re looking for a fast-moving location like a food court,” Joshi said.

He said he wants to open up Neonopolis, so that people can see what’s inside, by adding windows on the exterior.

“We’re ready to make deals,” he said.

As for the industry itself, Tron said retailers and shopping centers are adapting to a new normal in the post-recession era.

“It’s now more about value creation and asset management than growing portfolios. It’s about having the most productive store or shopping center that we can have,” Tron said. “Centers nationwide are adding retailers, but not generally building new shopping centers, which is controlling the vacancy issue.”

This year’s RECon encompasses all three halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center, taking up 1 million square feet. About 1,000 companies are exhibiting.

Among the attendees is Jaimesen Mapes, marketing director for Town Square. He came to check out the new technology available at the show.

“I really want to learn some of the new things that are on the fringe or are the future and how they’re being adapted to work,” Mapes said. “One of the biggest challenges right now to brick and mortar is the online shopping, and I really want to see how people are using different channels to drive people into the stores.”

Town Square, he said, isn’t suffering. The outdoor shopping center is seeing increases this year over last.

An 87,000-square-foot Gameworks with eight bowling lanes and a 215-seat restaurant will soon open below Rave Theaters. Pediped, a shoe store, recently opened, as did Artifact, which sells upcycled art. McFadden’s will open soon, and Fleming’s Steakhouse will follow in the fall. Michael Stars and J. Crew recently closed.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.