Amy joined Next Realty in 2015 as Director of Leasing, where she is responsible for overseeing the leasing of Next Realty’s 1.2 million square feet of retail space. She works closely with the acquisitions team to source investment opportunities, complete in-depth market research, and execute property due diligence.
In Amy’s time at Next, she has successfully executed dozens of lease transactions including four former Sports Authority locations within the Next Realty portfolio. This has resulted in maintaining a high level of long-term occupancy and revenue.
Previously, Amy was a Senior Leasing Representative where she was responsible for the marketing and leasing of multiple retail strip centers and shopping malls totaling in over 1.5 million square feet.
We asked Amy a variety of questions about her role at Next Realty and the general state of the retail industry.
Q: What is the best part of your job/role at Next?
A: The best part of my role at Next Realty is making the impossible (or the seemingly impossible) possible. More specifically, this means structuring and executing very complicated lease negotiations. I have just completed a lease where, on the surface, it was a significant lease for 30,000 square feet. However, with restrictive easements, covenants and waivers to work through the lease was incredibly complex, but the outcome is positive, and these challenges make me effective in completing compound negations.
On a more personal side, my job is very rewarding, and I really appreciate the respect and chemistry that the Next Realty team has built. We all come to Next with different perspectives and experiences which allows us to work very well together in achieving a common overall vision and goal.
Q: In a time when retail is constantly changing, what must an owner/landlord do be competitive in leasing space?
A: The key factor is to be open minded and flexible. As retailers work to reinvent themselves and reinvest in their physical footprints, owners are finding that they need to be open-minded about investing in tenants/tenant spaces, in the right situations, as well. For example, offering tenant improvement dollars can help retailers offset specific expenses that they can use to offset the costs of their own reinvestment and repositioning.
Q: Next Realty has some very strong relationships with national tenants that lease space at various centers in your portfolio. Talk about the importance of establishing and building those relationships.
A: Establishing and fostering relationships has been integral to both the retailers and the centers owned by Next. As landlords we know that retaining existing tenants is as vital as finding a good tenant in general. Having good communication promotes trust, reliability and mutual respect, and leads to more opportunities for both. These practices can lead to effective lease renewals in the future as well as creating an advantage for tenants expanding within an overall portfolio. We’ve experienced this in our relationships with retailers that include Hobby Lobby, Big Lots and others.
Q: At least twice a year Next Realty is active at ICSC conventions, in Las Vegas and Chicago. How important are these conventions to you and your efforts at Next?
A: The conventions in Las Vegas and Chicago are important because they typically help us build and further relationships. We get valuable face time with prospective tenants, brokers and others that we’ve been communicating with, but often only through email or the phone. It’s a great way to connect or reconnect, especially for those who may work across the country, but also with those in our local market.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of the retail industry right now, and how are you and Next working through/overcoming those challenges?
A: The most challenging aspect is investing large tenant improvement dollars for non-traditional retail uses that are backed by franchise credit, knowing the use is good for the center and the community. It’s not that these challenges can’t be overcome. We know these opportunities come with a larger investment and an understanding that these uses will be good for the center/property over the long term.
As Levin looks ahead to 2020, she anticipates that the real estate industry, including the retail sector, will face certain challenges closely linked to maintaining high levels of occupancy and net operating income. She notes, however, that with challenges come professional and personal opportunities for growth through creative problem solving.
Levin concludes, “As Next has diversified asset classes, and taken on and completed significant redevelopment efforts, it’s been an amazing education and has helped me to become multifaceted.”