Redeveloped Hilton Head mall crowd sourcing tenant suggestions

bheffernan@islandpacket.comJuly 3, 2013 

What stores would you like to see at the new Shelter Cove Towne Centre?

That's the question planners of Hilton Head Island's redeveloped shopping center -- formerly The Mall at Shelter Cove -- are asking on the website popularise.com.

Popularise, launched in December 2011, allows the public to propose and vote for tenants to move into empty retail space.

As votes add up, they guide developers -- in this case, Kroger Real Estate and Blanchard & Calhoun Commercial -- in choosing which tenants are offered space.

But Don Barnett, of Kroger Real Estate, cautioned that popularity among voters doesn't necessarily mean a store will move in.

"It's not going to really decide who will and who will not come to Shelter Cove Towne Centre," he said. "But what I hope it does, is give us credibility to go talk to these retailers."

Barnett said receiving a lot of votes locally could convince business owners that their store would be successful at the mall.

"And, it helps us as developers understand more clearly exactly what the island community wants," he said.

So far, Hilton Head has been eager to offer suggestions.

More than 160 store ideas have come in since the mall's page launched on Monday. Some of the most popular as of Friday were the Apple Store, H&M, Pottery Barn, and Trader Joe's.

Construction at the center is expected to be complete in February. When finished, the outdoor mall will offer 290,000 square feet of retail space, with a Kroger Marketplace and the existing Belk department store at opposite ends of the center.

Crowdsourcing mall tenants wasn't what Popularise co-founder Brandon Jenkins had in mind when the site launched. The focus was initially to help fill small spaces with local businesses in Washington, D.C.

But as communities around the country began using the tool, Jenkins said he noticed the suggestions reflected the values of local populations. Openings in Seattle, Wash., attracted organic food and high-end retailers; an arts district in Oklahoma City, Okla., wanted quirky small businesses; and residents of Fort Worth, Texas, called for Chick-Fil-A.

"The overall outcome is that (developers) are getting a better reflection of what the community wants," Jenkins said.

So what do you want to see at the new Shelter Cove Towne Centre? And, perhaps more interesting, what might the suggestions say about the community?

Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.

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