ECSP guest blog: Local spaces in big cities, a neighborhood approach to the future of shopping

A megapolis is by definition a big place, a super city where everybody thinks big in terms of scale and planning. However, cities cannot continue to grow exponentially where the focus remains on the centre as a source for everything we need, whether it’s a place of work, entertainment or to go shopping. As Europe’s largest cities, such as Moscow, Paris or London, expand and take on the features of megapolis, consumer habits will change and adapt. Throw in a pandemic, and these trends potentially accelerate.

This week, we hear from the team at ADG Group, a member of ECSP and a pioneering urban developer in Russia, creating smart urban environments. Mikhail Pecherskiy, managing partner, and Guillaume Sadoux, its development director, tell us what they are doing in response to changing consumer habits.

Covid has certainly slowed down our lives. It has also highlighted the urgent need to re-connect the way we live to the more “local” scale of time and space defined by our neighborhoods. A local kind of time that is less constrained by the megapolis we live in, which constantly requires us to travel out of our neighborhood to satisfy our basic needs. Our connection to our neighborhoods has changed, giving a different meaning to the word “local”: local not only in terms of distance, but in terms of time as well. What makes us happy are local social connections, offline, real, physical, born out of friendship, proximity, helping each other out – not the connections on our screens, from hundreds of “friends” or in virtual crowds where we are actually alone. It is tangible connections with real human beings that make our lives happy and healthy, our homes happy and healthy and our neighborhoods happy and healthy.

With its Mesto Vstrechi (Meeting Place) concept, ADG is developing a network of neighborhood centers that will become the heart of each community it operates in. It’s more than bricks and mortar. It is a well thought and considered process that does not happen overnight. A deep understanding of local demographics and economic factors, social and cultural dynamics, with continuously refreshed data analytics, is helping our teams understand local behaviors better and allowing us to constantly adapt our concept. We focus on “how neighbors spend their time” rather than “what they buy”. This helps us shape a concept that aims to provide meaningful support for the community, rather than just providing another opportunity to consume goods.

Creating a community is one of the most important elements when building a network of neighborhood centers in a megapolis. It requires a lot of resources. The entire process needs to be carefully managed to keep track of changing dynamics, adapting the strategy in accordance with feedback and integrating new concepts. Ideally, there should be a specific person whose role is to combine all of the responsibilities mentioned above – at Mesto Vstrechi, we call this the community manager. These people not only provide all the necessary information and services, but first create relationships with neighbors and collect valuable feedback and search for local professionals and experts who later engage people to take part in activities, lectures and discussions. Everything is very much localized: it makes the entire process more efficient and brings this neighborhood vibe, contributing to Moscow’s unique “flavor”.

From the business point of view, neighborhood communities need to build businesses for people and take care of them, so it’s essential to listen to locals to know their needs, aspirations, and expectations. Everything we provide at Mesto Vstrechi is based on feedback from locals and adapted to their needs, which also includes an extensive cultural and social program. We tailor our strategies to each audience focusing on four segments: “Culture and Education”, “Family and Children”, “Sports and Health” and “Moscow Longevity”, Moscow Mayor’s project for senior citizens. We believe these shape a community.

A neighborhood community is a brand-new asset class in the Russian real estate industry. We strongly believe that the value of brick-&-mortar is deeply rooted in residential districts of the city, and it helps us to learn and develop, create unique experiences and reach-out to new talents and skills outside the usual real estate space. It goes beyond the usual B2B and B2C way of doing things, by undertaking a “neighborhood stakeholders” approach instead: everyone has something valuable to bring to their local community.

To support the community idea, we have also developed the Mesto Vstrechi app, where you can get personalized offers, information about events and even order delivery of goods and services from a local neighborhood center. The app is also a platform for building a loyalty program in a new, modified way by helping us to access more information about the habits of our consumers. We are able to analyze this data collectively and share insights with tenants, so that we can tailor our growth and become even more successful and local-centered. It does not matter nowadays if it’s an online or offline experience, if it’s a real community or a digital one – technology helps blur the boundaries, including those between the usual tenants and our consumers, who we now think of as guests. And this is how we are creating what we believe will improve the quality of thousands of people’s lives here in Moscow, and perhaps all over the world.

ADG group is a Russian pioneering urban developer creating smart urban environments, member of the International Council of Shopping Centres (ICSC) and GRI Club. ADG group has twice won prestigious CRE Awards in the category “Best small shopping center”: in 2020 with the neighborhood center “Mesto Vstrechi Angara” (Angara Meeting Place) and in 2021 with the neighborhood center “Mesto Vstrechi Budapest” (Budapest Meeting Place). Moreover, in 2020 ADG group was named the “Developer of the year” by Global RLI Awards, and in 2021 the company won GREEAt award for the “Best small new shopping center”.