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REinvented: Transit-Oriented Retail Developments

May 6, 2016

We’ve all heard the grim predictions that brick and mortar retail is “out” and online is “in.” We’ve visited the “dead mall” sites and seen images of food courts turned to vine-covered wastelands. But, the truth of the matter is that brick and mortar retail is alive and well, living in the midst of new transportation hubs in cities, suburbs and rural communities across America.

From trains and planes to automobiles and bikes, transportation is changing the face of the American retail scene. While Transit Oriented Developments (TODs) are certainly not new (having first been introduced post-WWII), the scope, complexity and mode of transportation is changing vastly.

Let’s look at a few transportation-centered retail categories and related success stories:

Evolving Mass Transit TODs: The adage “if you build it, they will come” had been the model for early TODs centered on key mass transit stations. Now faced with increasing opportunities and the need to separate from the pack, cities and private developers are elevating the traditional TOD model. In our fair city alone, Reconnecting America reports, “Denver is building 119 miles of light rail and 70 new stations in a decade, creating huge development opportunities to make the region more livable and sustainable.” In response, The City of Aurora, Colo. has launched the Aurora Line and is actively marketing to developers. The COHN- branded Aurora Line offers a dozen unique TOD opportunities at stations along the city’s newly extended rail line.

Active Transportation – Trail Oriented Developments: The Urban Land Institute cites Trail-Oriented Developments as “the new TOD” – mixed use districts geared toward those who prefer cycling and walking to driving or mass transit. Related’s Hudson Yards in Manhattan, the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States, has been thoughtfully designed around New York City’s High Line walk/bike park along Manhattan’s West Side.

Revitalized Transportation – Trolley Oriented Developments: Clang, clang, clang, the streetcar is back. Across America, cities are reviving and extending trolley lines to recharge downtowns and mature inner city neighborhoods. In Dallas, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority (DART) recently debuted the new Dallas Trolley Line, a FREE streetcar ride connecting downtown to Oak Cliff, creating continuous development opportunities adjacent to the trendy Bishop Arts District.

The Airport City – Aerotropolis: Time Magazine described the Aerotropolis (entire cities centered on air transportation) as one of the 10 ideas that will change the world. Shattering the model of airports sitting on the outskirts of urban municipalities, the Aerotropolis model places airports and air transportation services as the district’s anchor with retail, residential and commercial development built around it. In today’s global economy, air transportation, travel and shipping serve as essential drivers of municipal growth. Porteos, a 1,287-acre aerotropolis with 1.5 miles of common frontage along Denver International Airport, is creating massive development opportunities for retail, restaurant, dining, entertainment and hospitality in what had been open rural plains.

But it’s not just retail joining the transportation bandwagon. Savvy multi-family developers like Essex Property Trust and Wood Partners are responding to the demand for proximity to transit. Essex’ One South Market in downtown San Jose sits steps away from the Caltrain Station and Light Rail, putting the entire Bay Area within residents’ reach.

Transportation is, and will continue to be, a key driver in urban and suburban retail and mixed-use growth, proving that on-line and in motion can harmoniously co-exist.


Jeff Cohn, President & CEO

An industry trailblazer, an authority in the marketing community and an all-around good person, Jeff Cohn is the company’s fearless leader. As the founder, CEO and certified brand strategist of COHN, Jeff leads all brand development and branding initiatives, guides marketing and public relations strategies, and oversees client relationships, creative services and agency management. He also leads COHN’s specialized Retail team.

“REinvented: Transit-Oriented” is the first installment of the REinvented series by COHN. Collectively, COHN has more than a century of marketing experience in the retail real estate industry. From the launch of Neiman Marcus’ famous holiday gift guide to the recession of traditional malls to the rise of social media and its impact on shopper engagement, we have been there for it all. REinvented is our way of applauding the resilient and ever-changing retail real estate industry by spotlighting creative and game-changing retail applications we are seeing from coast to coast and beyond.

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