Retail panel says industry trending toward mixed-use

According to the experts at the Retail Economy Speaker Panel, the retail industry is beginning to rely heavily on mixed-use development for survival, heralding it as the solution declining traditional retail-only developments.

Earlier this month, five experts discussed the future of retail and answered questions from community members. Organized by the City Council, the night’s host was Barry Foster, Principal HdL and included four local retail experts: Alesha Shemwell, Rouse Properties; Christine Firstenberg, Senior Vice President for JLL; Steve Lawton, Retail Consultant for Main Street Property Services; and Curtis Leigh, Director of Development and Partner for Hunter/Storm.

One of the goals of the panel was to address industry trends, including shopping habits, retail development and sales in Silicon Valley, and community expectations. Panelists stated that now is the time for change in retail, because while traditional retailers may be threatened by influences like online shopping and same-day delivery, they are not going to disappear.

Panelist Christine Firstenberg said, “I do think some malls will close, but I think there will be enough demand between housing, industrial, and office that even the worst case scenario, those malls will be repurposed.”

Panelist Steve Lawton agreed and noted that convenience also plays a large role in how retail centers are designed today.

Walkable, city-centric locations are becoming high-priority for retailers looking to dive into the Silicon Valley market, and that means mixed-use locations are prime property. The integration of residential, commercial, industrial and other functions are considered a unique asset to retailers looking for high pedestrian traffic. Therefore, mixed-use developments that blend street retail, such as Target and Walmart, with housing, restaurants, offices, outdoor activities, and fitness centers are attractive to retailers looking for new locations.

“Now that there is no longer a need to leave the house to shop, retailers are looking for ways to make the experience more interesting to their customers,” said Alesha Shemwell. “We’re all rushed these days, everything is about time and about the way you spend your time and the experience you get out of it.”

The retail panel was the second of a four-part series hosted by the Council to inform Cupertino residents about key issues facing the city and region at large. Earlier in July, the City hosted a panel discussing the mechanics of city planning, including change, growth and design.

The next panel will held on August 24 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Cupertino Community Hall, 10350 Torre Ave. For more information on the Speaker Series and upcoming panels, visit