Simon, the owner of Walt Whitman Shops was interested in renovating and expanding Walt Whitman Shops, one of the premier properties in its portfolio. A prior redevelopment at the property by a different owner about 15 years earlier was met with strong opposition from the local community and resulted in a substantially scaled down version of the original concept. This time around Simon needed to have its plans approved without little or no changes in order to make the capital investment worthwhile. The goal was to add approximately 70,000 square feet of new retail space and bring in a variety of new upscale stores and eateries to the property. The project also included a complete exterior/interior makeover that would greatly enhance the overall décor and aesthetics of the entire shopping center.
The agency’s role in the renovation and expansion was multi-dimensional and included community outreach, government relations and media relations. Prior to the filing of the application, the agency identified and arranged a series of meetings between key local civic leaders and Simon’s Executive VP of Development. As the process further unfolded, the agency maintained an open door of communication with the community and was able to quickly address smaller concerns and issues that arose and bring larger ones to the attention of Simon’s development team. This overall approach proved crucial toward building community support for the project. In addition, the agency served as a liaison between local elected officials and the Simon’s senior level management and interacted with a variety of media outlets that reported on the redevelopment project during the application process.
By the time the project was reviewed by the Town of Huntington, we had secured letters of support from the vast majority of the key civic leaders as well as a number of other important organizations. The plans were ultimately approved the same night as the public hearing, an unprecedented occurrence for a project of this size and magnitude.