From the Brokers' Perspective: How Lidl Joined Skyland Town Center (Part I of II)

It’s been a few months now since the ICSC RECon unveiling that Lidl, the booming German supermarket chain now gracing the D.C. market with their high-quality, low-price presence, is joining the new Skyland Town Center in Southeast Washington, D.C.  A huge moment for both the retailer and Rappaport – for Lidl, this was their first location in D.C. Proper while for Rappaport, this was a sought-after anchor joining the mixed-use development project and bringing the first major supermarket chain east of the Anacostia River since 2007. 

While the conclusion is momentous for this future shopping destination, people rarely get a behind-the-scenes understanding of what goes into the process of bringing such a great retailer to a new development and the subsequent changes to the plans for the rest of the community as a result.  The team of trusted landlord representatives overseeing the retail leasing for Skyland Town Center, Jim Farrell, Michael Leon, and Thomas Bolen III, all sat down with us to divulge the inner workings of making the deal in this two-part series.

What was your strategy to leasing Skyland Town Center?

Thomas: “The surrounding community has been underserved for so long.  We really wanted to bring in all the amenities, full-service restaurants and QSRs, as well as a grocery.  The Hilcrest neighborhood is unfortunately known as a food desert, lacking in food and retail options.  It was very important for us to serve this community with more of these opportunities.”

Jim: “The merchandising plan and the process are always very fluid.  We go into a project like Skyland Town Center conceptualizing who we would like to see there for uses and retailers, but this could change 15 times up to the execution phase.  If you’re good, and we are, it is not a haphazard process.  You dwell on it, use your experience in the industry, the community’s preferences, data and demographics, and anecdotal information – take in everything, throw it in a pot and stir and to create a cogent and well thought out plan that we will execute.”

Michael: “For Skyland Town Center specifically, we want to bring an elevated retail experience.  Thomas is right – this community’s been underserved for many years from a variety of standpoints so that’s always our first priority.  It’s an untapped area for retailers, so it is a great business opportunity for them.”

How did the Lidl deal happen?

Michael: “We’ve been talking to Lidl for a long time.  We always wanted a high-quality supermarket chain like Lidl so we moved quickly when we knew they were ready to commit.”

Jim: “We targeted them as a prospective tenant and actually had a deal that died with them two years ago – they were in the early stages of their US site development at that point.  When we came back to the table, they were more established and had a stronger foothold in the D.C. market.  They were ready, we were ready.  We met Lidl’s international team, toured the site with them, showed them space, engaged with them.  We used those experiences and lessons from the first deal to bring this one in record time for an anchor in a development project.”

Thomas: “Lidl really is a perfect fit.  There’s a lot of homeownership in the Hilcrest community.  Their investment as a ground-lease deal and constructing their own building speaks volumes about Lidl’s belief in the community and their commitment to Washington, D.C.  Plus, Lidl’s deal allowed for flexibility in the site plan which opened it up to other tenants who were looking for a certain deal structure.  From a junior broker looking up to Jim and assisting on this, it was a great experience to see the process, negotiation, and execution.  We’re excited to announce more deals in the pipeline, so stay tuned.”

For more information regarding Skyland Town Center retail leasing opportunities, visit the property page here.

For Part II of this two-part series, click here.