Case Studies

Patrick Inaba – Federal Realty Investment Trust

Turning projects into profit in a pandemic

At a ritzy rooftop wine and cheese reception in Miami’s Coconut Grove, the air feels almost alive—a mix of ocean brine, merengue and Channel No. 5.

The guests, revelrous and relaxed, are mingling in the open-air space surrounded by silver platters laden with pricey hors d’oeuvres—until one of them reaches for a canape and gets blasted from an exhaust vent connected to a restaurant’s deep-fat fryer downstairs. The wrinkled nose says it all.

Patrick Inaba is helping to avoid a costly design and construction faux pas like that—an exhaust vents in the wrong place. As the vice president of construction and tenant services for Fortune 500 real estate company Federal Realty Investment Trust, Inaba’s job is keeping the firm’s mixed-use development properties filled with happy tenants.

Patrick Inaba – Federal Realty Investment Trust

COVID-19 hit the real estate industry hard, with tenants and property owners alike seeing revenues plummet. But with 30 years of retail development management experience to his credit, Inaba’s helped keep Federal’s projects on track.

Now, on the heels of his most recent endeavor—the Cocowalk shopping center in South Miami with its shops, restaurants and office space—Inaba says he’s ready to take the next step in his career—whatever that might be.

“We’ve worked hard to help businesses open safely,” says Inaba. “Now I’m ready to turn another project into a profitable venture.”

Sizing up sites

Inaba’s most recent project came about like many of Federal’s ventures. Based in Rockville, Maryland, the company identifies properties in prime locations and modernizes them to attract new tenants.

Touting years of national and international experience overseeing shopping mall construction, Inaba joined Federal in 2006. His biggest strength: pulling all the planning details together—from successfully managing the building’s core design, to partnering with tenants—to establish a balanced and profitable mix.

“One of Federal’s specialties is redeveloping real estate in densely-populated affluent areas,” Inaba says of the 53-year-old business.

Patrick Inaba – Federal Realty Investment Trust

Cocowalk certainly fit Federal’s profile, says Inaba. Acquired in 2015, the shopping center is located in the bustling upscale Coconut Grove neighborhood, filled with condos, shops, restaurants—and lots of people. Shaped like a horseshoe, the Spanish-style building faced a popular thoroughfare, with terracotta archways surrounding a courtyard.

One design flaw—a 3-story “island” retail space in the middle of the courtyard—created a barrier that blocked visibility to tenants.

“That building crippled the property. Tenants were leaving,” he says. “It needed work, but we saw the potential to redevelop.”

Wrecking ball

Demolition of the center building came first, to allow customers to see the businesses behind it. Next, one side of the horseshoe was redeveloped to provide five levels and 85,000-square-feet of Class A office space. The rest of the project features 155,000-square-feet of retail space for more than 30 tenants.

Inaba helped architects design the multi-story buildings to support the retail and restaurant spaces, including infrastructure requirements like directing grease exhaust away from rooftop patios. Restaurant space around the courtyard was redesigned to offer socially distanced outdoor seating and food pickup sites.

“Ground floor tenants—like restaurants—got their view back,” he says.  “Anyone can draw a pretty plan with a terrace and palm trees, but without understanding design requirements things gets complicated quickly. That’s where I come in.”

Patrick Inaba – Federal Realty Investment Trust

Despite the pandemic, Inaba says Cocowalk’s occupancy rates are rising, and most of the building should be filled by fall.

“Better properties allow tenants to be successful,” he adds. “We’ve created a place where people want to be.”

Inaba’s impressions

After three decades in the business, Inaba’s developed a sense of what will attract people to a community hub. Time spent working with restaurants—coupled with his work in operations, design and construction—provides him with insight.

Much came from his early experiences. After earning a degree in economics from the University of California, Irvine in 1987, Inaba faced a depressed job market. In response, he and his friends opened Wahoo’s Fish Tacos in Costa Mesa, California. There, he learned how to how to launch a startup—whether it was opening new locations or inventing a recipe for lemon bars.

Opportunities like Diedrich Coffee followed. By challenging his CEO on leasing strategies to reduce new store development costs new prospects unfolded.

“The early work of making presentations to community groups, leading design sessions and partnering with developers and stakeholders paid off,” Inaba says. “I was laying down a career foundation in retail development.”

By 1997, Inaba joined The Mills Corporation, a development company building shopping malls across the U.S.

Promoted to vice president of tenant services in 2000, Inaba managed TMC’s new construction of regional shopping malls for six years. Many encompassed more than 1 million square feet of space.

Patrick Inaba – Federal Realty Investment Trust

When TMC was acquired in 2006, Federal recruited Inaba to improve its tenant leasing process. For 15 years, his responsibilities encompassed everything from creating a CAD-graphics department, to managing retail development project teams.

Professional certification from the International Council of Shopping Centers led to a faculty position at the John T. Riordan School, teaching construction and tenant coordination. He also gave an online keynote presentation last July on “Managing Construction and Tenant Coordination during COVID-19.”

With Cocowalk complete Inaba’s ready for what’s next. Equipped with skills honed during a pandemic, he’s looking forward to adding value to his next big project.

“I’ve spent my career of solving challenges,” Inaba says. “The issues are unique but creating solutions through thoughtful design and teamwork is very rewarding.”

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