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Alumnus Relishes Chance to Lead New Retail Project- Las Vegas Review Journal

Exec relishes chance to help lead brand-new retail project

By Ann Friedman, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Andrew Ciarrocchi was enjoying life in Seattle, but he couldn’t forgo the chance to create a premiere retail destination. So he moved to Las Vegas in March as senior general manager for Downtown Summerlin, a 1.6 million-square-foot shopping complex near Sahara Avenue and the 215 Beltway.

“This opportunity really piqued my interest,” Ciarrocchi said. “You don’t get the opportunity to build a shopping center from the ground up that often.”

As senior general manager for Downtown Summerlin, which is scheduled to open Oct. 9, Ciarrocchi oversees the shopping center’s management teams and daily operations, budgets and financial reporting and standards.

Question: After graduating from Pepperdine University, you went to work for AMC Entertainment. What was it like working there?

Answer: It was great. I helped them open the first stadium-seating theater on the West Coast and I opened three more with them before I left. It was great to see the beginning of building something new, working through construction, being a part of the hiring process and all the aspects of creating something and seeing it come to fruition. Also, all the free movies really helped my movie habit.

Question: What did you learn at that job that you continue to apply to your profession today?

Answer: Working at AMC Entertainment helped me better understand the employees and what they do. They have more respect for you knowing that you understand and care what you ask them to do. Respect develops both ways.

Question: Tell me about your time as a senior gaming analyst. Wasn’t that very different than being a senior general manager for Downtown Summerlin?

Answer: It was a very interesting experience. It was also the only experience I had that was focused on being in an office and not having the day-to-day activities of running a shopping center or movie theater like I did at AMC. As a gaming analyst I crunched a lot of numbers, which helped me understand how different aspects, such as what kind of game and its location, can impact performance. I’ve been able to take that criteria and apply it to leasing aspects for Downtown Summerlin so I can see what stores will perform the best for themselves and us. We want strong retailers, so looking at the right place for them or agreeing that they might not be the right fit gives me a chance to look at different aspects of business.

Question: What is it like overseeing such large retail properties?

Answer: It takes a lot of flexibility, being on your toes for whatever comes up, walking the property, checking in on the retailers, talking to customers to find out what they like, don’t like, and being in the office to figure out the best way to run operations because we don’t want our expenses to go out of control, which would make it harder for retailers to survive.

Answer: I never knew malls had offices until I worked in them, and it’s a whole new environment. It’s been a great experience to start from scratch with Downtown Summerlin and create the awesome team that I’ve put together.

Question: What challenges did you face while overseeing large retail properties? And how did you overcome them?

Answer: At the peak of the recession in Seattle, we opened up a 400,000- square-foot expansion of retail, and that put a new challenge on us as to how we keep customers coming, keep retailers viable and negotiate contracts. A lot of companies during the recession had to learn to operate in different ways and refocus. It was a good exercise and came in handy coming to this project because it taught me to be flexible and adapt quicker than in the past.

Question: What is different about working for a property that hasn’t opened as compared to one that is already established?

Answer: Whether it concerns security or janitorial contracts, the expectations of customers, what they’re looking for or the busiest times, an existing center has that information already. You know what stores perform better and which ones don’t. Here at Downtown Summerlin, we’ve had to get to know our customers and, thankfully, they’ve been very vocal, and we hope to exceed their expectations.

Whenever I introduce what I do, our customer base introduces (itself) to me. Folks in Summerlin have seen the steel up for so long and now they’re starting to see retailers names go up and keep track of our retailer announcements on social media. They get excited for the retailers we’ve announced and ask us for the retailers we haven’t announced. The Howard Hughes Corp. has also been running this community for so long, so they know what the residents are asking for as well.

Question: What sets Downtown Summerlin apart from other similar retail destinations?

Answer: Its design and combination of vehicular and pedestrian sidewalks. It has huge sidewalks and narrow streets so cars are forced to go slower. The finishes throughout the property, which will include stone, are also top-tier and something that people may not notice right away but learn to appreciate. Our dining and nightlife environment, including Regal Cinemas bringing their luxury theater concept, is really exciting. We’ll also have some of the best patio dining in the entire Las Vegas Valley as Summerlin sits between the beauty of Red Rock Canyon and the lights of the Strip. The views will be pretty impressive when you’re sitting out on the patios.

Question: How did you decide on Downtown Summerlin’s retail mix?

Answer: There will be more than 125 retailers and restaurants at Downtown Summerlin and we’ve made it our goal to create an overall shopping destination, not just convenience or luxury. We have a grocer on one side of the property, junior anchors and higher-end brands such as Michael Kors, Victoria’s Secret and lululemon athletica. There will be something for everyone and no one should feel out of place at this property.

Question: Will all the retailers be open for the Oct. 9 grand opening of Downtown Summerlin?

Answer: Our retailers will grow at a different rate. After the Oct. 9 grand opening, guests can come back weekly and see what new retailers open.

Question: What are you hoping to accomplish during your time here?

Answer: To create a downtown that will thrive and lead to expansion of Downtown Summerlin. Though we have 106 acres, we still have more than 200 more acres that are marked for high-rise residential and offices. Summerlin has been a strong community for so long, and we’ll make it even stronger for the entire valley and create something that will help make Downtown Summerlin become a reality even sooner.

Question: What are you looking forward to when Downtown Summerlin debuts next month?

Answer: I’m excited for people to get the first looks and see what we have put together. It’s hard for me to describe what I see and convey how excited I am as we’re in the last stages of construction. I’m looking forward to people seeing the design elements and retail mix. When I take people on tours of the construction so far, it’s been great to see their reaction and it’s a very humbling moment for me. I can’t wait to share that with the rest of the valley.

Contact reporter Ann Friedman at 702-380-4588 or afriedman@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AnnFriedmanRJ on Twitter.