The Daily Dirt: Can esports save retail?

By Kathryn Brenzel | July 31, 2019 11:30AM

For years now, experiential retail has been trumpeted as the future. A new trend is taking that idea to a new level. 

What better way to revive a struggling shopping mall or hotel than by bringing in a bunch of adults to play — and watch others play — hours and hours of video games? Apparently, Super Smash Bros. competitions are the way of the future. 

Retail landlords are looking to esports (eSports or e-sports) as a way to draw crowds to their floundering properties, the Wall Street Journal reports. In some cases, companies are spending millions of dollars on esports arenas for video game tournaments, while others are finding ways to use existing space to host these competitions. For example, mall owner Simon Property Group announced in June that it plans to hold competitions at some of its malls in New York and Los Angeles and will invest $5 million in Allied Esports International.  

Of course, this gaming focus is part of broader efforts to breathe new life into failing store locations. Retail landlords are increasingly looking for ways to reposition their assets, in some cases selling off stores as development sites or bringing in temporary “pop-up” shops to lure Instagram influencers — and anyone else willing to pay up for the chance to snap a selfie in a bathtub filled with rose petals or jump into a pile of germy sprinkles.

Facing fierce competition from e-commerce, many retail chains have declared bankruptcy or closed down tons of stores. Earlier this year, Topshop’s London-based parent company, Arcadia Group, announced that it would close its 11 U.S. locations. Vornado Realty Trust is mulling the fate of the two former Topshop locations in New York. The real estate investment trust is also considering its options at space leased out to Forever 21. No word yet if Steve Roth would be into bringing some gamers into these spaces.  

Remember that network of bogus condo websites? Well, its creator has been unmasked.

Nearly 100 fake building sites were at some point registered to Elegran founder and CEO Michael Rossi or his associates, Kevin Sun reports. Using tools provided by cyber intelligence firm SecurityTrails, he uncovered that Elegran executives were listed as the administrative contact for at least 95 sites. 

Back in May when the initial story about “The Network” ran, Rossi thanked TRD for bringing the shady websites to his attention, adding that his brokerage was in the process of “vetting the transparency and compliance of our lead generation sources.” This time around, he wouldn’t comment on Elegran’s relationship with the websites.

The sites — bland copycat web pages advertising luxury residential buildings without the developers’ permission — have raised questions related to the state’s advertising law. The New York Department of State has taken the position that lead generation is a form of advertising, meaning it shouldn’t cause consumer confusion. 

Elegran, whose name for some reason is derived from three words: elevate, grant and elephant (yes, really), is the only firm confirmed to be receiving leads from the network. The websites’ current registrants are still unknown, but it seems Elegran’s execs were not so careful in the network’s early days, so their names are still findable. It turns out that like elephants, the internet never forgets. 

What we’re thinking about next: Compass is now valued at $6.4 billion! When will it go public? Will the company ever turn a profit? Send a note to [email protected]

CLOSING TIME 

Residential: The priciest residential closing recorded on Tuesday was for a condo unit at 11 East 68th Street in Lenox Hill, at $34.2 million.
Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was for an office building at 130 Prince Street in Soho, at $206.3 million. A group of investors led by Madison Capital is the buyer, and Invesco is the seller. 

BREAKING GROUND

The largest new building filing of the day was for a 36,780-square-foot residential building at 2070 Honeywell Avenue in West Farms. David Pllumbi filed the permit application. 

NEW TO THE MARKET

The priciest residential listing of the day was for a condo unit at 345 West 13th Street in the West Village, at $9.5 million. Douglas Elliman’s Lauren Muss has the listing. — Research by Mary Diduch

A thing we’ve learned…

Northern Kansas is not by the ocean! Who knew? Century 21 is reminding people of this fact in order to ride the wave of publicity surrounding the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week.” The brokerage will send residential listings located in the Sunflower state to anyone who tweets about their fear of sharks on social media in order to “escape the threat of becoming shark bait.” You might want to crunch the numbers on the probability of dying in a tornado versus being attacked by a shark before making any drastic moving decisions, though. Anyway, here’s a majestic whale shark:

(Credit: Giphy)

Top stories from our other markets:

NATIONAL
In the wake of natural disasters, some real estate investors are finding opportunity for profit. So-called “disaster investors” are buying up properties damaged by floods, wildfires, hurricanes and other catastrophic events — and flipping them for a gain.

CHICAGO
CIM Group has refinanced its classic Central Loop tower at 425 South Financial Place, securing a $170 million loan. KKR Real Estate Finance Trust provided the loan on the 39-story tower. The refinancing comes after CIM renovated the nearly 1-million-square-foot Financial District building.

LOS ANGELES
Coldwell Banker is consolidating its two Beverly Hills offices into one location. It will shift about 150 brokers out of a space the company had poured $1 million into not long ago, sources said. Jamie Duran, president of Coldwell’s Southern California region, said only the company was considering a move to an existing, larger office.

MIAMI
A local developer closed on a land assemblage in the Spring Garden neighborhood, where he wants to build a large residential complex. Marlon Gomez paid $17 million for the land, planning a half-million-square-foot project with up to 437 residential units and ground-floor retail space. — Compiled by Alexi Friedman