Friday, May 16, 2008

Can we talk about *selling* them for a bit?

I know this is about publishing books, but I sometimes drift into bookselling issues. Blame Shelf Awareness - they have some great stories. And they included this article in today's daily email:

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Single Development Seeking Independent Bookseller

Here's an unusual pitch: a major suburban commercial developer is seeking an independent bookseller to be part of the mix in one of its new projects.

The real estate corporation Edens & Avant is developing a mixed-use space in Fairfax County, Va., near Washington, D.C., that's designed to emulate an urban neighborhood. Named the Mosaic District, it will be comprised of individual buildings created on a grid with shops at street level and upper portions devoted to residential and corporate use. Edens & Avant is seeking an independent bookstore to join its roster of retailers.

"We want to make it feel more like a great urban shopping street and less of a mall type environment," said Jessica Bruner, director of retail leasing. Although there will be some national retailers, regional and local purveyors will make up a significant portion of the stores, separating it in substance and style from Tysons Corner Center, one of the largest shopping malls in the country located a few miles away in McLean, Va.

The privately-held Edens & Avant has built 130 shopping centers in the Northeast, traditionally anchored by brand-named merchants. "We always try to put together the best merchandising mix for the project we're developing," said Bruner. "For the Mosaic District we'd like to go in a different direction and bring in more urban concepts and more unique retailers. We feel strongly about having a local bookstore that brings in local crowds and gives it a different bent."

Consumer spending power in Fairfax County should support the endeavor: Forbes reported earlier this year that it's the richest county in the U.S. "This area of northern Virginia, based on its wealth and education, is really missing a niche bookstore," said Bruner, "We've been approached by Barnes & Noble, but for this project specifically we'd like to have an independent."

Along with 600,000 square feet of retail space, the Mosaic District will feature restaurants, a movie theater and other entertainment venues, parks and other community space, and a hotel. "Different spots will be active at different times so it will really feel like a city grid," said Bruner. A full-time marketing person will coordinate events in the Mosaic District, including jazz and movie nights in the park, a farmers market and fashion shows. The location and size of the bookstore space is flexible, noted Bruner, although she envisions it along one of the parks so that a newsstand can also be operated. Either a brand-new store or an outpost of an existing business would be considered.

Edens & Avant expects to break ground on the Mosaic District this fall, and development will take place over a three-year period. Will an independent bookstore be among its shop fronts? Bruner hopes so. Local and independent retailers "are keys to our project and establishing our identity," she said.--Shannon McKenna SchmidtJessica Bruner can be contacted at jbruner@edensandavant.com and Bryce Baschuk at bbaschuk@edensandavant.com.

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Pretty cool, no?

Part of me is thinking, do we need another shopping center of any kind in the world? Part of me is hoping they build as "green" as possible. And part of me is happy that people still associate independent booksellers as necessary to create a sense of community.

For myself, I didn't buy anything - please note my shame - but I did stop into the Cornerstone Books in Salem last night, and it was a wonderful, clean, well-designed space - with cafe. Just wanted to give it a quick plug.

Have to go write a very long editorial letter now...

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