Taking stock of 2023, looking ahead to 2024 and recognizing moments that matter.
While few of us have paper calendars anymore, and our digital scheduling apps won’t let us literally turn the page, wrapping up one year and heading into a new one always feels satisfying. That’s particularly true when you can take stock of the last 12 months and truly feel good about what you’ve done and how you’ve done it.
As I announced on LinkedIn recently, we’ve been fortunate to have lots of good news. 2023 was a record year for NewMark Merrill. We acquired six new shopping centers representing $101 million in transactions. We completed or are underway on $52 million in new development including the 100% pre-leased, ground-up development of Rialto Village and a nearly complete 100% pre-leased, ground-up development in Vista, California—two developments that will add over 100,000 SF to our portfolio. On the property management side, we’ve added another 820,000 SF of shopping centers to our portfolio and signed 55 new leases representing over 260,000 SF.
In total, we now own or manage 97 shopping centers across 85 cities and partner with over 2,000 tenants.
We continue to surpass pre-COVID traffic levels at our centers, a testament to the continued strong performance of in-person experiences in brick-and-mortar environments and the extraordinary work of our property management and marketing teams. Their work on behalf of our customers—and in helping them feel grateful for their communities and our role in them—exemplifies the very best of NewMark Merrill’s principles in action. Our shopping centers bustled with nearly 185,000,000 visits in 2023 and our team executed 267 marketing events and a $4.5 million portfolio marketing budget.
That activity and our continued momentum are even more rewarding in the context of the big-picture market forces and economic uncertainty that plagued much of 2023. To my surprise, the steep rise in interest rates and difficult credit challenges never put too much of a damper on our economic growth. So much of what we do relies on our ability to monitor what our consumers want and need closely, and they have yet to show any signs of slowing down spending. New tenant leasing activity also remained strong: we experienced another record year and continue to see renewals and competitive rents. As a generally cautious person, I tend to feel like the other economic shoe will drop, but the persistence of strong leasing patterns, a resilient stock market, and strong industry fundamentals speaks for itself.
Even some of the most challenging moments of 2023 gave me reasons for optimism. Against the backdrop of a crisis in the Middle East and the tendency for the media to politicize human emotions, we continue to see everyday examples of humanity at its best. It’s a reminder that people are so much more similar than they are different and that compassion and empathy will always win out. One of the best parts of this company and this job is how we get to see those small but essential moments of personal connection unfold. Wrapping gifts with coworkers. Seeing a crowd of awestruck kids reacting to Santa parachuting into Janss Marketplace in Thousand Oaks. That’s the good stuff. Those small memorable moments and small kindnesses are the things that create experiences, make memories, and build community bonds that pay dividends for years and even generations to come. Together our team put together 11 community service events that raised more than $150,000 in cash for our communities and impacted organizations with 1,100 hours of service.
The fact that I come to work every day alongside a team who understands that and who challenges each other to keep those moments coming and to overcome challenges together is a privilege I don’t take for granted. The number of people at NewMark who step up with dedication and commitment to do things like hand-wrapping gifts for kids expresses how much we genuinely care about the communities we serve. There’s not a single NewMark employee who isn’t inspired by the opportunity to quite literally change lives—one person and one family at a time. Regardless of the latest economic trends and market forecasts, that’s the stuff that really matters. And no matter how many leasing announcements or milestones we hit as a company, that will always be the real bottom line. And so, while I’m optimistic about 2024, it’s not because of what we plan to do—but who I know we are.