Easton’s Thoughtful Evolution

October 17th, 2017

Award-winning Columbus, Ohio center just keeps getting better

By Randall Shearin, Shopping Center Business

For nearly 20 years, Easton has been the leading center in central Ohio. The center is opening 40 new, expanded or remodeled retailers by the end of 2017, as well as a multi-million-dollar refresh of its iconic Station Building.

At a time when there is more pressure on the physical retail environment than ever before, it seems only fitting that one of the best at creating “experiences” and curating “uses” continues to double down, evolve and get better and better.

By the end of 2017, Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio will have opened 40 new, expanded or remodeled retailers and restaurants and completed a multi-million dollar refresh of its iconic Station Building. This follows the 2015 opening of Easton Gateway, a 585,000 square foot addition to the 2.9 million square foot mixed use super regional destination which continues to be expanded by developers Steiner + Associates, The Georgetown Company and Limited Brands.

New construction has slowed nationwide and more retail resources are being devoted to technology, online sales and fulfillment, so it’s worth taking the time to appreciate the fact that the owners and developers responsible for one of the industry’s most admired mixed-use environments, continue to invest heavily in their already high-performing community.

As Yaromir Steiner puts it: “We know just how special Easton is and we have never taken that for granted, nor will we be complacent. It’s actually harder to keep something great than it is to make something great.”

Projects like Easton provide plenty of evidence that the main ingredient in the recipe for long-term retail success is strategic evolution. Successful retail and mixed-use destinations become great and remain great by constantly improving their tenant mix, amenities, physical layout and overall consumer experience.

“The world is changing, and we want to drive that change, not react to it. It’s important for us to stay ahead of the curve,” Steiner said. “People have looked to Easton as an innovator and an industry leader for nearly 20 years, and we are committed to living up to that reputation.”

Easton has continually attracted residents by offering amenities beyond retail and restaurants. Movie nights around the center plaza are especially popular.

Some of the retailers joining Easton this year are Zara, Lilly Pulitzer, Shinola, Filson, MAC Cosmetics, A Pea in the Pod, David’s Bridal, Soft Surroundings, Elm & Iron and Urban Home & Garden.  They join more than 230 existing retailers including names like Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, Henri Bendel, American Girl, The North Face, Apple, Vinyard Vines, Burberry, Michael KORS, Kate Spade, L.L.Bean, LEGO, Tesla, Dillard’s, Macy’s and Whole Foods.

According to Steiner, Easton Town Center also now has more than 60 restaurants including Kona Grill, Cheesecake Factory, McCormic & Schmick’s, Northstar Café, P.F. Changs, among others, accounting for more than $100 million in combined annual sales. “That makes Easton one of the top five dining volumes in the country. All told, Easton has grown to more than $1 billion in annual sales, and our strong and evolving tenant mix has driven that performance.”

Easton is owned by developers Steiner + Associates, The Georgetown Company and Limited Brands.

It’s clear that most strong mixed-use projects like Easton share certain traits: an engaging tenant mix, regional draw, healthy demographics and strong management. And possibly most importantly, they feel good; they convey a sense of authenticity beyond the shopping experience. The experiential nature of great mixed-use spaces delivers the goods from a retail perspective, but also provides the unexpected: spaces that resonate with all of your senses and emotions.

To that point, Easton is undergoing its next evolution this summer.  The communities iconic station building is getting a very special facelift. Steiner is working with Columbus-based M+A Architects, Easton’s architect of record, on a $26 million renovation that will include physical and aesthetic updates that will unify the interior and exterior expression of the building and create a more neutral backdrop so that the tenant storefronts “pop.” Natural light will be introduced into new parts of the building and color changing LED cove lighting will be added to enhance animation capabilities in the evening and during special events.  “M+A has been involved with Easton since we opened,” said Steiner.  “They are truly invested in this community and it shows in their commitment to its quality, sustainability and performance.”

Easton’s enclosed Station Building is being refreshed for a new era.

While large, ground-up, master-planned projects like Tavistock’s Lake Nona Town Center in Orlando are going to be the exception in new development, according to Steiner, “the ability to make good projects better is a huge opportunity.  For every new project on the drawing board at RECon this year, there are at least 10 opportunities to make good existing projects great. They are the Rembrandts in the attic.”

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