As Neonopolis owner Rohit Joshi sat at his booth among 1,100 exhibitors at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ RECon Las Vegas, he reminisced about the expo’s dwindling attendance a few years ago and how far the retail industry has come.
“A few years ago, no one was here,” he said. “Their enthusiasm is back.”
RECon, a global retail real estate convention underway through today at the Las Vegas Convention Center, has an estimated attendance of 33,000 from the retail and real estate industry, council spokesman Jesse Tron said.
The council’s website said 32,000 people attended in 2013.
When Joshi acquired Neonopolis in 2006, it was just two years shy of the economic downturn.
“There are hundreds of malls across the country whose anchor stores are leaving and it’s such a disaster, it brings tears to my eyes,” he said. “The only thing that saved Neonopolis is its location.”
Neonopolis, on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, is home to more than a dozen businesses such as Denny’s, Heart Attack Grill, Banger Brewing, the Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Art and Telemundo, an American Spanish-language broadcast television network.
Joshi said he decided to pursue mostly food and beverage establishments instead of retail shops in his building.
“Retail doesn’t work downtown because there aren’t enough people living there and people don’t come downtown to shop retail,” he said. “We wanted to create food, beverages, attractions and entertainment because if you create a food experience, people will come in.”
Joshi will soon expand the food court, which is now a three-venue space with Asian, Mexican and Italian fare. He’ll also open up the corner of Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard by adding jet fountains and grassy areas.
“I’m hoping to have it completed by the end of the year,” he said. “I want to remodel, revitalize and continue to be a part of the community.”
Simon Property Group, which oversees the Forum Shops at Caesars, was also at RECon.
“We’re making mall shopping even more of an experience,” Simon Property Group Chief Marketing Officer Mikael Thygesen said.
He said a new branding initiative is underway through a multichannel marketing campaign, which will include digital, social, television, print media and out-of-home advertising. The campaign will also feature events and programs for shoppers.
The Forum Shops already has its own brand and logo, which was updated to correspond with the new Simon brand’s look and feel. Customized programming and events will continue to support Simon shopping centers and the Forum Shops.
“Together, Simon and the Forum Shops are evolving and innovating by allowing shoppers to find fashion, experience the joy of discovery and come together with the community in an elevated way,” Thygesen said. “The Forum Shops will continue to be among the most valuable retail and entertainment real estate in Las Vegas, and Simon continues to be a leader in retail real estate development.”
Jackie Levy, executive vice president of operations for Caruso Affiliated, said the space between The Quad and Flamingo was a service alley before his Los Angeles-based company developed The Linq, for Caesars Entertainment Corp. The Linq is a 178,000-square-foot outdoor entertainment, dining and shopping destination.
“Caesars approached (founder and CEO of Caruso Affiliated) Rick Caruso and given the relationship and the promise for real estate, the company saw it as a great opportunity,” Levy said. “If the first few months were any indication, we’re very confident about The Linq’s future.”
Levy said all of the Caruso Affiliated properties, such as The Grove in Los Angeles, are treated like five-star hotels.
“We place quite an emphasis on guest experience because the more time they spend there, the more money they’ll spend at our properties,” he said. “The Linq is open-air and people like being outside, which contributes to the general feel of the property.”
The Linq, which has 30 retail, dining, nightlife and entertainment venues, is 98 percent leased, Levy said.
“We have one or two spaces that we’re finalizing leases on now,” he said. “Our properties evolve so in time we’ll assess what’s doing well and what’s not so we can cater to what our guests want.”
Contact reporter Ann Friedman at email@example.com or 702-383-0391. Follow @AnnFriedmanRJ on Twitter.