Larcher: Redefining the Arizona & American shopping center

By David Larcher

Shopping centers can and will thrive in the “Age of Amazon” as long as they continue to innovate.

That word has been our guidepost since our Phoenix-based company started developing retail centers over 30 years ago. Now, we are innovating again.

We have initiated a pilot program that we believe will help enhance the American shopping center.

Thanks to a recent change in state law Desert Ridge Marketplace, and soon Tempe Marketplace, allow shoppers 21 and older to purchase beer, wine or cocktails from a designated bar and stroll throughout the centers with the beverage in hand.

Desert Ridge Marketplace was the first to introduce this enhancement on Nov. 1.

The idea is to make the most of the terrific public spaces within our shopping centers, allowing customers to sip, stroll, and shop much like they would at a festival, sporting event, or European village. Rather than create barriers to shopping and strolling, we always strive to give people new reasons to come to our properties, and stay longer.

This program wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Arizona lawmakers and Gov. Doug Ducey who value innovation to keep Arizona’s economy thriving. After all, shopping centers generate a huge amount of state sales tax revenue that helps fund the quality of life we deserve and expect in Arizona.

This reform also happened thanks to careful and conscientious considerations from municipal leaders who appreciate the role Arizona shopping centers play.

The State Department of Liquor Licensing and Control plays a critical role with the program. It helped improve the state legislation and must approve all plans such as ours before one can become operational. And, of course, they along with local law enforcement can and will enforce any abuses of the new liberty.

Thankfully, it’s clear many elected leaders understand the value of shopping centers such as Desert Ridge Marketplace and Tempe Marketplace.

In many cases, they are the heartbeats of neighborhoods and cities. The new legislation allows shopping centers like them, and others of 400,000 square feet or more with distinct pedestrian areas, to try this idea out for several years.

Unlike many online retailers, these centers pay local property taxes and school taxes. Its shops and stores contribute sales tax revenues that pay for city services and public safety.

And now these local communities are better able to enjoy the signature community spaces at our shopping centers, making them more than just a place to shop. The goal is to make them places to gather with friends and family, to recreate and relax.

Arizona is now one of the few states where this is permitted. Other states will follow our lead because it’s good for business and great for tax revenues.

For retailers, innovation isn’t just a catchphrase; it’s essential to survival. And this is perhaps one of the boldest innovations to come along in some time.

Retailers, customers, and local governments will all benefit as we strive to keep retail centers healthy and whole.

Editor’s Note: David Larcher is president of Vestar.