Aurora Capital Associates has an idea to drive more shoppers to the Meatpacking District — literally. And there’s a twist.
The real estate investment firm is exploring how the district could reimburse shoppers’ rideshare if they spend a certain amount of money. It’s a modern version of the old practice of reimbursing parking-garage fees based on mall receipts, with a new element: data-sharing.
The neighborhood’s Business Improvement District, property owners and perhaps a corporate sponsor would subsidize the free rides, while ridesharing partners would provide trip information showing where shoppers came from and were dropped off. With the shopping receipts, businesses in the area would be armed with new insights on customers.
“It’s a data play,” said Jared Epstein, an Aurora principal and vice president of the firm led by Bobby Cayre.
Aurora owns a significant interest in the neighborhood. Epstein, who leads its development and leasing, also sits on the board of the Meatpacking Business Improvement District.
He announced the concept on day one of the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual New York expo, but emphasized in a later interview that the Meatpacking BID would have to vote to accept such a partnership.
He added that the data would be accessible to all businesses in the area, not just Aurora, and suggested that the BID could even choose to publicly report its findings “for marketing purposes.”
Jonathan Schultz, who was speaking on the panel alongside Epstein, said capturing data is the new frontier for the sector’s owners and operators.
“If you’re not actually getting all-in … I think down the road that’s where you’re going to have a big issue,” he said.
As the real estate industry begins adopting various technologies, fears about privacy and Big Brother-like tactics are taking hold, prompting lawmakers and technologists to urge real estate companies to handle data responsibly.
Epstein said the Meatpacking District already cuts new leasing deals thanks to its existing data, such as how many people visit the Whitney Museum of American Art. He said those base insights have made the area into “the affluent Times Square.”
But the Aurora principal admits there’s work to be done, especially when the days get short and temperatures drop.
To combat the winter blues, he said, the neighborhood is planning to stage tree- and menorah-lighting ceremonies, complete with a multi-day shopping festival, to rival Rockefeller Plaza next year.
“You want to feel the holiday spirit,” he said. “It touches your heart and makes you want to be engaged and buy gifts.”
Write to Erin Hudson at [email protected]