Creating a Holiday Destination in Mixed-Use Environments

While visitors will frequent mixed-use developments' retail and restaurants throughout the year, programming is another great way to draw a crowd over the holidays, argues Atlantic Station General Manager Barbara Garrett.

Atlantic Station staff HeadshotsThe holidays are a time of celebration and spending time with loved ones—they are also a time for shopping, of course. Mixed-use developments can bring tenants, residents, employees and visitors into the holiday festivities to not only bring cheer to the community, but also to drive foot traffic to retailers and restaurants.

Though recent articles may have you believe that “retail is dying,” we’re actually seeing an uptick in visitors this holiday season by creating experiential shopping opportunities through novel programming and holiday attractions. Here are a couple of tips for ensuring your mixed-use development stands out through the holiday rush:

1. Create the season

As soon as decorations are installed, visitors and tenants get excited about the upcoming holiday season. Make the investment in holiday décor, and take the time to find opportunities to be inclusive. Transforming your development into a winter wonderland can start with exterior décor, such as garland and lights. A Christmas tree is a simple way to not only create a meeting place within your development, but also to install an instantly Instagrammable locale. Another way to make visitors feel more festive is to play holiday music throughout the entire property. Once the temperatures begin dropping and the holiday music begins playing, patrons know the season has begun.

Christmas tree lighting at the Atlantic Station mixed-use development in Midtown Atlanta
Christmas tree lighting at the Atlantic Station mixed-use development in Midtown Atlanta

Creating the season means different things to different people, so at Atlantic Station in Midtown Atlanta, we also began hosting the Atlanta Christkindl Market in 2016. This traditional German outdoor experience allows visitors to enjoy authentic German bratwurst, beer, schnitzel sandwiches and even customary Gluwine. Holiday gifts from German purveyors are also available, giving shoppers the opportunity to give enchanted gifts to loved ones.

2. Host festive events

While visitors will frequent your mixed-use development’s retail and restaurants throughout the year, programming is another great way to draw a crowd over the holidays. To kick-off the season, hosting a tree-lighting is a way to bring visitors in for a dramatic showing. This can be supplemented with performances and local personalities to help with the countdown to the lighting. Atlantic Station’s tree is in the center of our Christmas Village, and we saw 30,000 people for this year’s lighting. We also have snow shows in the Village each night to fully bring the festivities to life.

You may be tempted to host Christmas events throughout December, but don’t limit yourself—or your tenants and visitors—to only Christmas. We also host Hanukah events and special celebrations, such as the lighting of the great Menorah to mark the first day of Hanukah.

Atlantic Station in Midtown Atlanta installed the largest ice rink during the holiday season.
Atlantic Station installed the largest ice rink in the Atlanta area during the holiday season.

Additionally, think about what else is happening throughout the holiday. By installing the largest ice rink in the Atlanta area, we offer experiences to our holiday visitors that are not just Christmas-related events. This season, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” was released, so we programmed an event allowing visitors to ice-skate with their favorite Star Wars characters. Experiences that include more than one attraction at your development—in this case, our Regal Cinema and the rink—allow visitors the opportunity to walk around the development and into stores and restaurants, making a whole night out of the experience rather than leaving right after the movie is over.

Programming is important year-round, but during the holidays, you have ample opportunities to be creative and make the investment in creating experiences. Visitors are more likely to patron a shopping environment where they can not only shop a good tenant mix, but also where they can create memories with their family and friends. Having the chance to see Santa in his cottage and skating with Stormtroopers just adds to the fun.

Images courtesy of Atlantic Station