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Competitive Socializing Venues Driving Economic Growth for Mixed-Used Developments

Published Mar 30, 2023 by Brina Morales

The Highlight at Houston Center.png

Experiences that bring together people, dining and competitive games are becoming a growing trend and opportunity in the real estate and retail industries.

Competitive socializing venues have grown by 386% since the beginning of 2021, according to new research featured in Cushman & Wakefield’s The Edge magazine. 

“This concept not only provides much-needed, out-of-the-home experiences with friends, but also a unique opportunity for landlords looking to revitalize their assets and fill large vacancies at the same time,” according to the report. 

Competitive socializing venues have a higher rate of success if they are in the right location – “highly urban environments” that provide the foot traffic and the young, trendy office spenders. And real estate developers are taking note of that.

In 2021, Brookefield Properties announced Puttshack as its anchor tenant at The Highlight at Houston Center, formerly known as the Shops at Houston Center, on McKinney Street in the heart of downtown. The tech-infused mini golf experience will open its first Houston location this year, filling more than 26,000 square feet of The Highlight with custom-made competitive golf courses and a cocktail bar. Other sections of the central plaza, including the food hall, are also starting to take shape. The real estate company aims to reimagine the complex as a destination where you can eat, shop, celebrate or visit the doctor, providing a thoughtful mix for tenants and visitors. According to Cushman & Wakefield, competitive socializing concepts attract “a more diverse tenant mix, improved guest experiences, elevated branding, innovation and placemaking.”

A similar concept, Puttery Houston, opened in 2022 in the Sawyer Yards district. The two-story, 23,000-square-foot venue features four nine-hole putting courses and three bars with a full dining menu. Chicken N Pickle, which combines wood-fired chicken and pickleball courts, is opening a location in Webster later this year. In Katy, Home Run Dugout, recently opened, billing itself as the TopGolf of baseball. The venue offers 12 Batting Bays, like batting cages, but removes the need for batting helmets due to its ground-up, soft toss pitching machines, and food and drinks.

Despite these concepts traditionally targeting adults between the ages of 25 and 36, Cushman & Wakefield add that younger and older audiences enjoy the experience too.

“With Gen Z and Millennials making up nearly half of the full-time workforce in the U.S., the thirst for experiences is a trend that cannot be ignored,” the report states.

According to the Partnership’s 2022 Houston Business Insider, the Greater Houston region is home to more than 1.1 million millennials, with that population continuing to grow. Over the last decade, the number of young adults between the ages of 24 and 35 has grown 25%, cementing Houston as one of the top 10 cities in the U.S. for attracting millennials and retaining college graduates.

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