In the commercial real estate sector, more particularly with regard to the retail trade, the Levin Management Corp. name carries a lot of weight. It should – the company has been around for 70 years. This year, the North Plainfield-based company celebrates its platinum anniversary.
Levin has been active in the market since post-World War II suburban migration sparked the development of New Jersey’s first outdoor mall – the still-thriving 220,000-square-foot Somerset Shopping Center in Bridgewater.
In the early 1950s, Philip Levin and a handful of other visionaries – including Alfred Taubman, Melvin Simon and Ed DeBartolo – recognized and responded to changing consumer buying habits associated with post-World War II suburban development. world. Once housing expanded and everyone had cars, there was no room to park in traditional town centers – where retail was centered. The availability of underutilized vacant land on the outskirts was there for the taking.
Shopping in those days was simple and easy to understand: there were pharmacies, five cents, food markets and all the little things that went with it, like hair salons, shoe stores, jewelry stores, etc. . These men knew Main Street merchants would be drawn to out-of-town locations by the offer of direct parking next to their stores.
Levin created a shopping mall concept known as the “dumbbell concept” – a building with a supermarket at one end, a variety store at the other, and a small strip of stores in between. It was a cookie-cutter approach to development that worked. Land was cheap; funding was readily available; and the tenants were ready, willing and able to jump on board.
Seven decades later, LMC manages a portfolio of 125 properties totaling approximately 16 million square feet in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Its clients are institutional, fiduciary and private owners. The firm’s business includes a variety of commercial product types, as well as office and industrial assets.
At its core, however, is still LMC’s ability to be a grocery-anchored outdoor mall specialist. The share of this type of product in LMC’s portfolio is a real advantage.
Levin has many tenants who have been with him for decades – Steck’s Delicatessen in Bridgewater is one of Levin’s long-term tenants, which opened in Somerset in 1959 and is still there today. Others moved to a center or grew up and moved to another LMC property.
“The landlord-tenant relationship is critical and really important in helping tenants do business, whether it’s making sure they keep properties running smoothly, looking good and working with tenants “, Matthew Harding, CEO of LMC, told ROI-NJ.
From Korvette’s and Woolworth to Caldor and Bradlees, Harding says LMC has seen the progression of department stores and discount stores over the years.
“Over time and throughout the history of the company, there has been tremendous evolution and change in retail and, therefore, commercial real estate,” Harding said. “Our company has seen it all. There have been many changes, and we have adapted with things like repositioning properties, renovating properties and retaining properties over time,” he added.
LMC’s 70th year of operation comes at a time of sustained organizational growth. The company achieved record leasing activity of 1.2 million square feet in 2021, with high volume continuing to date into 2022.
Where is the future going?
Harding believes retail is going to continue to evolve and move faster — COVID and technology, he said, have definitely spurred that. He believes there are exciting times ahead.
“We are very focused on trying to work with local and regional tenants and then national tenants as well. We’re really scaling and doing a great job of meeting customer needs – whether it’s an online retailer getting closer to customers with a physical store or a new concept and business owner independent. The future is very positive and Levin’s experience can help a customer find the right solution,” said Harding.
Sounds like a good recipe for another 70 years.
With all the adaptations that have taken place over the many decades, one thing that remains true, according to Harding, is the consistency of LMC. LMC’s objective to focus on supporting its assets so that they remain competitive and can better serve their local markets is essential.
“Good real estate transactions have become complicated over time. So a company like ours with experience can really help find the right solution. Whether it’s for vacant space or repositioning a mall or turning it into something else,” Harding said.
LMC’s institutional knowledge and ability to deal with change has really helped him, especially going into 2020 and 2021.
“All of our experiences have really helped us a lot during COVID, which has been the most trying time, for everyone, of course, and in our industry as well,” Harding said.
And where does this experience come from? Harding said it’s the folks at LMC.
“LMC’s accomplishments have also been built on having a tight-knit team working together under one roof, and the leadership of an executive team with a combined tenure of 265 years,” Harding said. “The quality and talent of our people resonates in LMC’s reputation and respect among customers, tenants and industry peers – it is a source of great pride for all of us.