Cities will do almost anything to land the store of their dreams.
Next month, legions of retailers, developers, bankers and brokers will descend on Las Vegas for one of the biggest schmooze fests in the world. It’s the International Council of Shopping Centers’ spring convention, and to anyone who hasn’t been there, the scene — literally a city under a roof — can be a bit overwhelming. Exhibitors set up booths as wide as office buildings, and the aisles are platted into a sprawling street grid. At the corner of “38th Avenue & Q Street,” mobs swarm the Cold Stone Creamery booth for free ice cream; a “block” away, they get free pretzels from Auntie Anne’s. But the real business happens behind closed doors, where the bigwigs of chain retail shake hands on hundreds of deals that decide where America will shop and eat for years to come. Because the commercial stakes are so high, the ICSC conference isn’t just an affair for the industry anymore. It’s a big event for local government as well. Mayors, city council members, city managers and economic development officials have become regulars at this annual carnival of deal-making. Some 4,000 public-sector people are now members of ICSC, and they are one of the fastest-growing segments of the association.