Brandt Retail Group opening downtown office, creating urban focus

Cincinnati-based Brandt Retail Group sees an opportunity in the urban retail market and intends to open a new downtown office led by urban specialist Kathleen Norris. Norris is responsible for the wildly successful Gateway Quarter shopping district that has evolved over the past couple of years, and is credited with bringing more than 20 new businesses to Over-the-Rhine.

Norris will be joined by research director of the urban division, Doug Brandt who is the son of Brandt CEO Steve Brandt.  Doug says that he intends to work hard to make downtown Cincinnati a "hip, unique place," and that he is driven by the desire to make the city appealing to tomorrow’s leaders.

The new urban focus for Brandt Retail Group is a unique change in direction for the company that has specialized in suburban shopping centers for 30 years representing the likes of IKEA, Target, Home Depot, Trader Joe's and Costco.

"Downtown Cincinnati is the heart of this region.  It deserves a bold urban vision, and both within this area and beyond there are neighborhoods, cities and town where Main Street retail is a crucial economic engine – an engine that we know how to fine-tune," says Steve Brandt.

The goal will to be fill empty storefronts and create a market strategy for the center city.  "Cincinnati has a particularly nice downtown.  It’s clean, safe, walkable and it has wonderful amenities," says Norris.  "What it lacks is a retail focus to create unique and interesting experiences and distinct opportunities."

So far the firm has identified roughly 200,000 square feet of available retail space that they hope to match with appropriate retailers that can activate those storefronts and energize the streetscape.  Long-term the retail group would like to assist in developing retail strategies for more than just Downtown, but also other nearby retail clusters and eventually even other cities in the region.

While Downtown has experienced tremendous success over recent years a retail strategy has not yet been developed.  Norris sees this as one of their best opportunities to leveraging the existing success Downtown and in Over-the-Rhine.

"There is a strong re-urbanization movement underway in this country now, and Cincinnati has a chance to be at the forefront.  We have a wonderful downtown and an utterly unique asset in Over-the-Rhine.  That's beginning to be recognized, but untapped potential still exists," says Norris.

As the new urban division of Brandt Retail Group gets settled in to their Downtown offices, they will also be looking to engage the area's stakeholders and come up with that comprehensive retailing strategy for the downtown area.  Steve Brandt says that the division first needs to figure out what people want Downtown to be, and how they can help make that happen.

For that Norris hopes to get input from the community and encourages everyone to share their thoughts with her at [email protected].  "I think a thriving Downtown is a significant economic generator.  I’ll help as best I can with some retail recruitment, but this is a team effort."

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
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