February 8, 2019 Comments Off on Cedar Realty Trust Brings Appetite for “Food Deserts” Views: 2117 National News, Northeast

Cedar Realty Trust Brings Appetite for “Food Deserts”

By Dennis Kaiser

Port Washington, NY-based Cedar Realty Trust is fundamentally retooling its strategy in the face of an ultra-challenging retail landscape. That encompasses diversifying its portfolio and turning its sights toward urban mixed-use redevelopment in “food deserts,” anchored by high-quality grocers. Connect Media asked Bruce Schanzer, the REIT’s CEO, to share a few insights about the trends shaping the retail sector in our latest 3 CRE Q&A.

Q: How has Cedar Realty Trust’s strategy evolved in today’s challenging retail climate?
Over the last eight years, Cedar has honed its strategic focus from the ownership of approximately 140 disparate retail assets in the eastern U.S., to roughly 60 premier grocery-anchored shopping centers from D.C. to Boston, and now to a focus on redeveloping the centers we own in the highest density urban submarkets within our regional footprint.

Our plan contemplates executing mixed-use redevelopment projects at these centers, thereby focusing our financial and human capital on the most dynamic and defensive parts of the evolving retail ecosystem. The reason for this continued refinement of our strategy is a recognition that retail is changing and retailers are more sensitive to operating stores in high-quality locations. In addition, we see the migratory pattern of millennials leading them to settle in many of the highly-populated areas where our assets are situated and where we intend to invest.

Lastly, the people who already live in many of these neighborhoods struggle with access to fresh foods and lack well-merchandised retail assets or high-quality residential offerings. In executing our redevelopment plans in these urban markets, we hope to do well for our investors while we do good for these communities, and thereby fulfill a noble ideal of being an exemplary corporate citizen and steward of investor capital.

Q: How does your approach to incorporating more mixed-use into the portfolio stand out among competitors in the retail industry?
Put simply, our approach is ‘people-first.’ We invest an extraordinary amount of time learning about the current needs and challenges of a community through our communication with residents and key public leaders. In most cases, the solutions that meet the needs of everyday people are also the ones that make the best financial sense for our own stakeholders. For our mixed-use redevelopments, we’re finding that the fundamental needs still revolve around access: access to fresh foods, access to affordable transportation, access to quality housing and access to jobs. This feedback has guided our approach to our recent large-scale initiatives.

Q: What can investors expect from Cedar Realty Trust in the coming years?
Investors can expect to reap the rewards of our streamlined core grocery-anchored portfolio, coupled with the ongoing execution of our three ambitious urban mixed-used redevelopment projects. Cedar aspires to continue focusing its financial and human capital on nimbly navigating the company ahead by honing its core portfolio and aggressively executing its urban redevelopments.

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For comments, questions or concerns, please contact Dennis Kaiser

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