Episode 6: Mastering Mixed Use with Developer Mark Toro, of North American Properties

Part One of a Three Part Series: Mastering Mixed Use

Guest host: Ajay Kapoor, CEO of TouchSource

We talk with Mark Toro, Managing partner and Atlanta office cofounder of North American Properties about the keys to creating truly successful mixed use projects.

Bio:

Mark Toro believes a thoughtfully designed and activated place fosters a higher quality of life for the community it serves. Whether through his relentless advocating for expanded transit and walkability, lending his expertise to rebuild one of Atlanta’s most impoverished neighborhoods or developing award-winning mixed-use communities, Mark is constantly reimagining “place” by focusing on the street level energy and human experience.  With the recent repositioning of Atlanta’s Atlantic Station, development of Alpharetta’s $1 billion Avalon community and redevelopment of Colony Square, Mark continues to fearlessly lead the North American Properties team through uncharted waters, where together they are developing a new generation of experience-driven commercial real estate.

Ever engaged in helping to shape the future of metro Atlanta, Mark currently chairs Midtown Alliance’s Board of Directors and serves on the Boards of Woodruff Arts Center and City of Refuge, where he chairs the $25 million “Shining the Light” capital campaign. An outspoken transit advocate, Mark was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of The ATL by Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor.  The newly formed authority will govern expansion of public transportation throughout the Atlanta region.  He is a former chairman of ULI – Atlanta’s Livable Communities Council and serves on ULI’s Urban Development Mixed Use Council.

Mark has been named one of “55 Most Influential Atlantans” by Atlanta Magazine, recognized as one of the “Most Admired CEOs” by the readers of Atlanta Business Chronicle, presented with the Henry H. Robinson Award by Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors, honored by the Hispanic American Business Leadership Association as Entrepreneur of the Year and named Citizen of the Year by Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce.   

Before cofounding North American Properties’ Atlanta office in 1996, Mark served in several leadership positions with Faison and Cousins Properties. He has acquired, developed or redeveloped more than 70 projects totaling almost 30 million square feet.

Mark attended Rutgers University, where he met his wife, Nancy. The Toros have two daughters and three grandchildren.

Revel:  https://experiencerevel.com/

Painted Duck:  https://www.thepaintedduckatl.com/

Avalon:  https://www.experienceavalon.com/

Episode Timeline:

3:40 Mixed use reemerging as a stronger force.
5:31 Energy Curves- The key is to identify the uses that will attract and retain human interest on the property.
5:58 Probably 9 or 10 communities in the USA that are the model of what is to come.
7:29 “If you get the street right, everything else will take care of itself.” Don Wood, President Federal Realty Investment Trust
8:25 Retail developers seem to be more successful with used mix because they understand the difference between guests experience at different stores.  
10:30  The critical differentiator is that these are communities. The key is to be able to program that public realm to attract people onto the property and hold them there so that they spend money. 
14:18 Public spaces are critical to the success. They become the third place for the community. 
18:24 Social media, events, activation, concierge, all high touch things were considered as fluff in the real estate industry.  But people are starting to take notice that it has value. 
19:10 Retailers are realizing that what is outside their front door allows them to recruit and maintain the best and the brightest.
19:19 Apartment resident recognizes that when they walk out their front door they are already where they are going.  
19:45 Multi-family rents are 50% above the market, office rents are 30% above the market, single family residence are 100-150% ahead. 
25:40 Instagram is the weapon of choice for social media but all platforms are used.   Build community while building a community.
26:48 Within a month of opening, we scheduled the “Lighting of Avalon” event.  Adverse weather forced the schedule to change and through community social media only, it was rescheduled, and 15,000 people showed up. 
29:56 A key component of mixed use properties, is that each of the product developers believe that the key is to create a street level experience that will keep people there. 
31:28 We are not in the business of building buildings, we’re in the business of building communities. It’s about the space between the buildings being a playground.