NOLABA’s Brenda Canada Named “Downtown All-Star”
NOLABA Vice President of Retail Attraction, Development & Strategy Brenda Canada earned recognition as a New Orleans All Star from the Downtown Development District in September. She sat down with the International Council of Shopping Centers for an interview.
What has been the key to your success in attracting urban retail to your downtown?
Downtown New Orleans has seen a major transformation from a weekday business and tourism oriented environment to a thriving work-live-play destination. With the revitalization, the need for increased retail has skyrocketed. Our key focus has been ensuring the needs of downtown residents are met while providing more shopping opportunities to our growing tourist traffic. Maintaining the uniqueness of New Orleans historic buildings has been a major focus of our work.
What advice would you give to a new ICSC public sector member?
Cultivate relationships with your private sector and partner with them to maximize the existing opportunities or to create new ones. The brokers and developers control the properties and our role is to encourage, clarify and provide guidance as they work to bring new retail developments to the market. Ensuring that everyone is using the same data and consistent messaging is a critical part of downtown revitalization.
What would you tell someone in the private sector to do if they had an idea for your city?
Call the New Orleans Business Alliance – we’re here to help you! We have research capabilities, an intimate understanding of what’s happening on the ground, and strong relationships with both city government and the broker and developer community. Helping great ideas catered towards New Orleans come to fruition is exactly what we do. We’d love to talk to anyone with a new idea for the city.
What has been a big challenge in attracting retail to your downtown?
Ensuring retailers understand the opportunities and the evolving demographics of downtown. Many retailers did not consider New Orleans a viable market, especially for the more upscale concepts. But we compiled data and told the story until we generated interest. Many of the site selectors for the national brands love the city and once they realized the changes taking place they became enthusiastic supporters of bringing retail to the area. We’ve seen some very specific successes like H&M, The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, Tiffany, True Religion and others. We all know that nothing attracts retailers to an area more quickly than a successful retail resurgence.
What do you do to stay fresh and keep a grounded perspective?
Seeing vacant buildings transformed into vibrant retail and formerly blighted streets alive with shoppers is a great motivator. I’ve been in love with New Orleans since I was a teenager and being able to play a role in her recovery and revitalization is very energizing. It is very satisfying to see the City once again becoming the favorite shopping destination in the South.