ICSC Vegas 2023 Recap: Emerging Land Development Trends

01 June, 2023
ICSC conference in Las Vegas


Concerns about economic uncertainty negatively impacting the retail industry were assuaged during this year’s Innovative Commerce Serving Communities (ICSC) conference. Recently held in Las Vegas, the event attracted thousands of real estate owners, developers, retailers, and consultants from around the globe. 

As a leading land development consultant, Bohler has been a prominent fixture at ICSC Las Vegas for decades. Bohler’s site planning professionals join developers and dealmakers from diverse markets to share insights and opportunities to learn and grow their businesses. 

This year, several themes reemerged from last year — suggesting trends across the industry. Here are four land development and site planning themes that Bohler’s conference attendees shared from the event. 

  1. 1. Maintaining a Positive Outlook

Overall, the outlook remains bright for developers. New project creation continues, spanning a diverse range of sectors, including retail, residential, and mid-size flex/spec industrial. Amid this surge of activity, one surprising area is gaining traction and capturing attention: car washes. 

“Not only are car washes being funded, but they also make a ton of cash,” says Christina Peterson, Sr. Manager of Market Development. “Investors have recognized the lucrative nature of this industry, leading to increased interest and investment.” 

Paralleling the surge in car washes is the expansion of electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure. Companies, including EVgo, Shell, and Blink, are emerging as key players in the EV infrastructure space. “Though business models vary, the EV charging industry is becoming increasingly competitive,” says Ben Crowder, Associate and Branch Manager. 

Bohler’s Take: Retailers, owners, and developers should consider partnering with car washes or EV charging station providers to diversify their portfolios. As EV parking ordinances take shape across the nation, developers could even benefit from zoning relief.  

  1. 2. Adapting to the Market

As new project creation continues, market dynamics are changing. To adapt, some developers are considering lower barrier-to-entry markets, like those in southern regions. “By broadening their geographies, developers can align their goals with market demands and expedite project timelines,” says Matt Jones, Principal. 

For multifamily projects in particular, developers are shifting their focus from urban areas to higher-populated suburban locations. The rising costs associated with urban developments have prompted a preference for suburban areas, where costs are more manageable. Additionally, mixed-use developers are reevaluating their holdings.  

“Mixed-use developers are diversifying their portfolios by increasing the presence of residential, entertainment, hotel, and professional office spaces,” says Jon Eisen, Managing Director of Planning, Landscape Architecture, and Land Development Consulting. “This shift helps ensure greater income diversity and economic stability within their projects.”  

Bohler’s Take: To successfully expand or diversify, it is essential to harness the knowledge and expertise of consultants from diverse geographical locations and market sectors. With over 30 offices, including expanding locations throughout the Southeast, Bohler offers valuable connections across industries. 

  1. 3. Transforming Existing Assets

  2. Another significant area of focus is existing asset improvement. For instance, developers are updating tired strip malls by incorporating unconventional elements, such as apartments, restaurants (including quick-service or upscale chains), parks, and other attractions.  

“Especially throughout middle Tennessee, developers are revitalizing aging strip malls into vibrant destinations,” Peterson says. “With more engaging and experiential environments, these developments can attract a broader range of visitors and tenants.” 

Among other existing assets with development potential are parking lots. Thanks to a nationwide trend toward reduced parking requirements, commercial real estate developers are finding new opportunities to repurpose existing parking lots with single-use outparcels. 

“By embracing this trend of reduced parking requirements, developers can optimize the use of available space, unlock additional revenue streams, and enhance the overall functionality of their properties,” says David Nemecek, Principal. 

Bohler’s Take: As consumer expectations shift, owners and developers of malls and shopping centers have opportunities to attract non-traditional tenants and even leverage existing code modifications 

  1. 4. Identifying Opportunity

As the commercial real estate industry continues to evolve driven by consumer preferences, market trends, and technological advancements, developers who proactively adapt their strategies and stay attuned to shifting market demands will be well-positioned for success. To get there, risk analysis and creative solutions are paramount. Bohler can help.  

“Clients, including existing asset owners and potential investors, can benefit from Bohler’s expertise,” says Dan Duggan, Associate. “We offer comprehensive highest-and-best-use studies and value-added analyses to identify opportunities to increase and drive the value of properties through strategic enhancements.” 

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