The Ongoing Evolution of the Experiential Shopping Center

August 16, 2022

From the Desk of the CEO

There’s a reason our company slogan is “It’s All About The Experience”. It places a constant focus on what really matters most in all of our projects. Whether we’re constructing a new residential development, working with a company to build-out a new office space, or leasing out a storefront to a new retail tenant, we are always thinking about how we can help create the best possible experience for our guests and really everyone involved.

It’s a formula that has kept us on a successful path for many years. The problem is, things change. The first thing that comes to mind as I write this is the evolution of our work environment. We recently moved from a segmented, cubicle-filled, low-rise building to an open, collaborative space that sits atop a high-rise residential tower in Downtown Cleveland that’s outfitted with lounge areas, a pool table, a café, gaming consoles, and so on. The entire work experience has shifted dramatically from what it was even just a few years ago, and that’s without even mentioning the introduction of remote work.

The same goes for retail. What someone may have thought was a fun, memorable experience even 5 years ago (let alone 20) may not be so now. I grew up in the time of indoor shopping malls, Chuck-E-Cheeses, and arcades packed with video games and ski-ball machines. While there are some remnants of those still around, the landscape has likewise shifted. Not only have shopping malls morphed into sprawling outdoor lifestyle centers – many of which also have a residential component – they now include a host of activities that focus solely on creating fun, lasting experiences for residents and visitors that exist firmly outside the realm of traditional shopping and dining (thanks to the vision of my Dad, Bob Stark).

Our award-winning shopping and lifestyle center, Crocker Park in Westlake, OH just 15 minutes west of Cleveland, is a great example of this evolution. When we first built Crocker Park, the movie theater was the only real experiential piece of the puzzle. Fast forward nearly 20 years and we have an on-site event venue, regular outdoor programming, yearly festivals, special interactive attractions, local pop-ups and so much more.

In addition, we recently added Urban Air Adventure Park, a fun, family destination with indoor obstacle courses, climbing walls, go-karts, trampolines, and games. The very definition of experiential. We also recently announced The Lego Store will be opening at Crocker Park, brining alongside it an immersive experience akin to the Legoland theme parks that have become famous across the globe. Our newest addition, and one that I’m very excited about, is a free-roam virtual reality experience called Sandbox VR.

As one of the global leaders in the virtual reality space, the new Sandbox VR location will unlock a whole new realm of experiences to residents and visitors. The space will have four rooms for gameplay with six exclusive, immersive worlds to explore with friends, family, and coworkers, including a haunted mansion and Star Trek space mission, among others. I have personally tried this out and was blown away not only by the tech, but also by how fun the entire experience was, how new and entertaining it felt.

That feeling is everything. People change, tastes change, times change. It’s up to us to continue to push the envelope and come up with creative ways to engage our visitors and offer interesting activities that give them the feeling of excitement that goes along with trying out something new. When it comes down to it, we offer much more than just a place to go. We offer an opportunity for the community to create lasting memories and great experiences together. And as you well know … it’s all about the experience.


Ezra Stark
Chief Executive Officer