Industry Update
Press Release16 December 2008

Cornell “White Paper” Calls for Innovation in Life-Style Center

Hospitality industry can supply new energy, says market strategist

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The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University

Developers of new "town centers" and "life-style centers" need to leave the beaten track and resist repeating the mistakes of the past, according to Karl Kalcher, managing director of MindFolio, a marketing strategy firm. In a new "Industry Perspective," published by Cornell's Center for Hospitality Research, Kalcher analyzes recent projects through the lens of customer preferences, with a goal of re-energizing the role and opportunities for such mixed-use developments.

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In his industry perspective, "North America's New Town Centers: Time to Take Some Angst Out and Put More Soul In," Kalcher suggests that the design of many life-style centers has not only become worryingly repetitive, but their frequent positioning as town centers and community anchors puts the wholematter beyond subjective design considerations. "I wrote this analysis mainly as a contribution to the quest of many for innovative, socially responsible, and commercially viable spaces, where enjoyment, comfort, authenticity, and dynamism can merge seamlessly," Kalcher said. The report is available at no charge from the Center for Hospitality Research at http://www.hotelschool.cornell.edu/research/chr/pubs/perspective/.

"This is a matter of economic necessity, I believe. Truly useable, socially animating public spaces are rare within these so-called town centers, thus reducing average dwell times—to the detriment of developers and tenants," Kalcher said. "One cannot fail to notice that America's urban landscape is increasingly dominated by nearly identical, pastiche 'Mediterranean' towers, domes, and archways, frequently devoid of any local authenticity. I call this 'angst' for stepping out and a preference for copying rather than innovating with courage."

Fully aware of the financial dynamics that underpin developments, Kalcher proposes a greater and even more assertive role for the hospitality industry, whose practitioners are crucial to the overall success of most developments today and whose sensitivity and experience for shaping ambient environments should be harnessed to a much larger degree.

"Due to economic forces beyond our control, we now have a pause in many developments," Kalcher added. "We could use this time gainfully to regroup and rethink. In some instances, there will also be a need for research such as the customer-choice analysis developed by Daniel McFadden, who wonthe Nobel Prize for Economics. By focusing on customer needs, the industry could be well positioned to take new initiatives with much greater confidence when the economy revives. Our architects, master planners, retailers, and developers are capable of much more, but they need to be as one in pursuing the benefits of change and innovation."

Kalcher also reasons that developments which are marginal in terms of finance and anticipated demand will simply not get off the ground now, and that this will minimize the oversupply of markets. Therefore, he concludes, it is quite conceivable that fewer, but better developments will provide thoughtful entrepreneurs with justifiably higher rewards.

A strategy consultancy, MindFolio develops visions, branded concepts and master-planned experiences, based on rigorous customer analysis and interaction, for leisure, retail, residential, and working environments in the U.S.A., Europe, and the Middle East (www.mindfolio.com).

Thanks to the support of the Center for Hospitality Research partners listed below, all publications posted on the center's website are available free of charge, at www.chr.cornell.edu.

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About the Center for Hospitality Research

The purpose of the Center for Hospitality Research is to enable and conduct research of significance to the global hospitality and related service industries. CHR also works to improve the connections between academe and industry, continuing the School of Hotel Administration's long-standing tradition of service to the hospitality industry. Founded in 1992, CHR remains the industry's foremost creator and distributor of timely research, all of which is posted at no charge for all to use. In addition to its industry advisory board, CHR convenes several industry roundtables each year for the purpose of identifying new issues affecting the hospitality industry.

Center Members: Accenture • Access Point Financial, Inc. • Barclaycard US • Cvent • Davis & Gilbert LLP • Deloitte & Touche USA LLP • DerbySoft • Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts • Fox Rothschild LLP • Hilton Worldwide • Host Hotels & Resorts • Hyatt Hotels Corporation • IDeaS Revenue Solutions • InterContinental Hotels Group • Jumeirah Group • Marriott International • NTT DATA • Preferred Hotels & Resorts • priceline.com • PwC • The Rainmaker Group • RateGain • ReviewPro • Revinate • Sabre Hospitality Solutions • STR • Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces • Tata Consultancy Services • Wipro EcoEnergy • Wyndham Hotel Group

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Glenn Withiam
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