From the Desk of the COO
Welcome to another article in my series of Reflections on a Responsible Restart. As businesses continue to open up here in Ohio and nationwide, I’ll be taking time each week to reflect on recent events and offer insights on how we’re progressing on our path to recovery.
One of the most difficult adjustments we’ve had to make during the shutdown is dealing with event cancellations. You don’t truly realize how much of a role events play in your work/life balance until that equilibrium is suddenly thrown off. And suffice it to say, our balance has been disrupted in historic fashion.
As individuals, so much of our free time revolves around attending events that help us connect with each other and provide some much-needed entertainment. As business owners, we depend on hosting events to draw interest and elicit engagement from the communities we serve. While these cancellations are necessary steps to help ensure the health and safety of everyone involved, it has been a trying time for those on both sides of the coin.
It has always been our philosophy that a shopping center is not just a collection of stores and restaurants. It’s a space where we come together, where we share common interests, where we build relationships, and where we create unforgettable experiences. As such, events have become the backbone of not only our shopping centers, but also our residential and office spaces. So, when we began cancelling events at our various properties, we knew we had to go back to the drawing board to come up with new ways to connect with our communities.
“Events have become the backbone of not only our shopping centers, but also our residential and office spaces”
Our Westlake property Crocker Park, well-known for popular events like Liberty Fest and Tree Lighting, was forced to suddenly pivot from in-person gatherings to virtual and socially distanced options. The Crocker Park team worked with local radio station Q104 to host a sing- along for the residents living above ground-level shops and restaurants in an effort to uplift the community during the protracted stages of the stay-at-home order. Similarly, they hosted a drive-thru event featuring Disney Princesses spaced along Main St. to help the surrounding communities enjoy a fun family experience from the safety of their car. They also put together a coloring contest to help engage people struggling to find activities to do during their lengthy time at home.
On the residential side of things, Crocker Park Living shifted newsletter and social media outreach to their tenants to include fun at-home activities like virtual cooking classes, home workouts, e-learning courses, and more. Our newest multi-family development The Beacon, a 29-story high-rise in the heart of Downtown Cleveland, organized regular virtual game nights on Zoom. And our Brooklyn, Ohio residential complex The Terraces at Northridge hosted a local band to play in their outdoor pavilion while they filmed it on Facebook Live for residents to watch from their porches and terraces.
While none of those are particularly groundbreaking ideas, they provided meaningful experiences nonetheless. They gave people something to keep their minds occupied and their emotions level during an unprecedented and uncertain situation. At the same time, they kept the relationship alive. They showed that we believe in more than just shopping and dining. We believe in fostering community and strengthening connections during the good times and the bad, whether you can be physically present or not, because we truly believe it’s all about the experience.
There is no question that people are eager to get back into the swing of things. However, deep down we all know it cannot happen in the same manner we’ve grown accustomed to in the past, particularly for large events and gatherings. That’s why we need to continually push ourselves to come up with creative new ways to evoke the same emotions and experiences that past events have drawn out. By staying in tune with how people are responding to these trying times and looking closely at how they’re finding equilibrium on a local, national, and even global level, we can work to create safe events and experiences that help us all reconnect and reestablish balance on our path to the new normal.
Ezra Stark, Chief Operating Officer