The world’s largest retail real estate convention kicked off poolside on Sunday, giving brokers, executives, lawyers, title insurance agents a few hours to trade gossip, talk shop and source deals.
Day one of the International Council of Shopping Centers’ event in Las Vegas centers around the Wynn’s pool, with companies leasing out cabanas and hosting roped-off gatherings where prominent retail players mingle with both clients and competitors alike.
Though the number of attendees registered for the annual event is on par with last year’s numbers, the parties, private meetings and dinners held along the Strip remain the big draw for those who making their annual pilgrimage to the desert.
By the Wynn’s European pool, where bathing suit tops are optional, Winick Realty Group hosted a cabana with stacks of monogramed hats. Nearby, billionaire real estate investor Jeff Sutton lounged on a beach chair. A few feet away, Kent Services’ Alon Alexander, a brother of Douglas Elliman’s Tal and Oren Alexander, chatted with Aurora Capital Associates’ Jared Epstein on why ICSC continues to be a must-attend event.
Alexander, who runs a building security services company, said it was his sixth year attending the conference and he comes “to see people and build relationships. It’s a contact sport.”
Epstein, whose firm has significant retail holdings in the Meatpacking District, concurred. “You meet the top to the bottom,” he said. “Vegas can change your career.”
For others, the show represented an opportunity to get away from New York for a few days. “The only reason I’m here is because I have four kids under the age of seven,” joked David Zar, who runs New York City-based family office, Zar Properties.
Under a central cabana, card tables were set up in the shaded area around the bar. Hanging out in the midst of the crowd was Joe Pizzutelli of M&T Bank, James Nelson, head of Avison Young’s tri-state investment sales and Cohen Equities’ Meir Cohen.
Prominent female brokers and attorneys circulated through the crowd, too. Last year, women represented a quarter of ICSC’s registered attendees.
Compass’ commercial division’s Adelaide Polsinelli made an appearance early in the day with Ronda Rogovin, while Laurie Golub, currently at Square Mile Capital and formerly HFZ Capital’s chief operating officer, appeared to move through the crowd alongside a group of other women, including Olshan Real Estate’s Nina Roket.
Meridian Capital Group, Thor Equities and B6 Real Estate Advisors also reserved cabana space alongside the Wynn’s standard pool–where all coverings are required. Within the crowd outside Meridian and Thor’s spaces, Meridian’s CEO and chairman Ralph Herzka mingled with guests until he and two associates hunkered down in a tight circle to hammer out pricing on a deal.
Meridian’s Ronnie Levine, donning dark shades and a baseball cap, agreed with brokers who told The Real Deal ahead of ICSC that they would pursue shorter-term leases with online tenants. “That’s going to grow,” he said, noting that leases with rolling cancelations were cropping but up but it’s not the norm yet. “Retail is still evolving,” he added.
Both Levine and B6’s Paul Massey said they believe that neighborhood mainstays like pizza shops and nail salons were not going anywhere. Massey, standing in the sparsely populated shady area outside his firm’s booth said “Local retail is not dead,” he said.