Alfred's Blog

Alfred's Blog


Grand Opening of The Mall at University Town Center

November 3rd, 2014

On October 16 I was on hand in Sarasota, Florida, for the grand opening of The Mall at University Town Center, Taubman Centers’ newest shopping center. It’s a beautiful center anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue (the first new Saks store to open in a decade), Macy’s and Dillard’s department stores. With more than half its stores unique in the market, The Mall at UTC (as they call it) fills a void of better merchandise between Naples and Tampa. I am very proud of my sons and the talented Taubman Centers people who worked with Florida-based Benderson Development Company to create this powerful new shopping destination. I had the opportunity at the ribbon cutting ceremony to express my feelings. Here’s the video of my remarks:

 


Brick and Mortar Experiences Still Alive in Italy

September 22nd, 2014

The New York Times last week reported that Versace would be opening a new store in a mall.

Why is that news?

The new boutique will be debuting in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan’s enclosed multi-level mall built in the mid-19th century adjacent to the city’s Duomo.  And Versace, along with Prada, will be contributing millions of dollars to a major renovation of the center. (In Chapter 4 of Threshold Resistance, “Evolution of the Mall,” I focus on the Galleria to support my argument that the enclosed shopping mall was invented long before the 1960s and to highlight one of the best early examples of this historic building type.)

The story also reports on other examples of Italian luxury merchants helping to fund restoration and renovation work on the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, Rome’s Trevi Fountain, and Milan’s La Scala opera house.  It is interesting, but not surprising to me, that retailers are embracing and investing in distinctive destinations and physical space.

A recent study by A.T. Kearney, confirming the continuing competitiveness of brick and mortar retailing, concluded: “Physical stores are clearly customers’ preferred shopping channel and a place where the most significant consumer and retailer value continues, and will continue, to be created.”

The study found that, “90 percent of all retail sales are transacted in stores and 95 percent of all retail sales are captured by retailers with a brick-and-mortar presence.” http://www.atkearney.com/consumer-products-retail/on-solid-ground

This is not to say that Versace is ignoring its opportunities online. Like all good retailers, they are pursuing an integrated “omni-channel” marketing and distribution strategy. Customers are still human, and as it has been for centuries, shopping in physical environments as inviting as Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is as much a part of life as enjoying a live performance at La Scala or tossing a coin into Trevi Fountain.


Leukemia Researcher Wins 2014 Taubman Prize

June 4th, 2014

The Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translational Medical Science is awarded each year by the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute at the University of Michigan to a non-UofM clinician-scientist who has transformed laboratory discoveries into successful clinical treatments for patients. I am delighted that the recipient of the 2014 Taubman Prize is Carl June, M.D., a physician-scientist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Dr. June will receive the award’s $100,000 prize for his development of a personalized treatment for leukemia using the patients’ own immune cells to fight the disease. Leukemia patients are in remission today thanks to this innovative work, which is a perfect example of what the Taubman Institute was created to promote and reward.

Congratulations, Dr. Carl. We look forward to welcoming you to Ann Arbor and hearing your keynote address at the Taubman Institute’s annual symposium on Oct. 10, 2014.

To learn more, please click here to read the Taubman Institute’s public announcement.

 


Moving New Video Positions Taubman Medical Research Institute

April 9th, 2014

I am thrilled to share with you the new video produced by the  Detroit-based Doner advertising agency for the Taubman Medical Research Institute at the University of Michigan. The great folks at Doner donated their services in creating this moving 90-second introduction to the Institute. The powerful theme they came up with is “We Can’t Wait.” And I think that effectively captures the way the researchers at the Institute think about the groundbreaking work they’re doing every day. Please take a look at the video, and thank you, Doner!

 

 

 

 


My Birthday Toast

March 20th, 2014

I turned 90 on January 31 and my family outdid themselves with wonderful birthday celebrations over the last several weeks. My wife planned spectacular gatherings in London and New York, and my children and their spouses threw a party to remember at the Detroit Institute of Arts on February 22. I feel pretty good for 90, and seeing so many friends from all over the world was truly special.

Several people have asked if I could share my toast from the Detroit party, so here it is:

I want to thank my wonderful children for planning this terrific party . . . and the DIA for allowing us to be in this historic space.

As you know, Detroit is my home, and I love being in this museum . . . at my age, it feels great to be surrounded by things that are older than I am.

I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by family, friends and wonderful food at most of my first 89 birthday parties . . . except for a couple during World War II when I was serving in the Army Air Corps, and the year I took off to study the criminal justice system in Rochester, Minnesota.

And now I’m 90. Wow, that’s old.

If I were a side table, I’d be close to being an antique.

If I were a fine wine, I’d have a cracked cork and taste like vinegar.

If I were an automobile, I’d been running well past my warranty.

Fortunately, I exercise every day, have a few new parts (including two new glass corneas), and my mechanics – - otherwise known as doctors – - work hard to keep me on the road.

But I sleep wearing an oxygen mask . . .

When I wake up I have to swallow a tray full of pills . . .

I use a cane to steady myself . . .

My candy has no sugar in it . . .

And I constantly worry about the batteries in my hearing aids.

Sometimes I feel more like a science project than a human being.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many great things about getting old.

I just can’t remember them!

Old age is just another fact of life . . . And I cope with it.

For example, I’ve learned to be an accomplished sculptor . . . arranging my remaining strands of hair in just the right position to cover my scalp.

All things considered, reaching 90 is an extraordinary personal milestone. It must be, because people keep asking me for my secrets to living a long and healthy life.

And just in case I don’t make it to the century mark . . . here are three recommendations to consider:

First: get a good doctor. They have a big impact on the length and quality of your life. In the 90 years I’ve been alive, nothing has changed more dramatically than health care. Be sure you have a doctor who can take advantage of the breakthroughs.

Second: avoid aggravation as much as possible.

Make a list of all the things that aggravate you in your life . . . study it . . . then tear it up before your wife or children see it. And stay off the golf course. I’m convinced the frustrating game was invented to shorten lives and control population growth.

And third: stay curious and connected to people.

My wife, children and nine grandchildren keep me young . . .

Working with brilliant doctors and researchers at the University of Michigan keeps my brain alive . . .

Traveling around the world and learning about different cultures broadens my mind.

So that’s my advice: Get a good doctor . . . avoid aggravation . . . and stay curious and close to people.

To hell with the warranty.

So please join me in a toast to Detroit, to my family and to at least a few more birthdays!

 My children: Robert, Gayle, and William

family

My wife, Judy, and me

aatjmt1


Yo Ho Oy!

January 7th, 2014

I love a good history book, especially when the author reveals something new and surprising. That’s why I’m recommending a book by Edward Kritzler titled Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean – - How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved out an Empire in the New World in their Quest for Treasure, Religious Freedom and Revenge.

We learn in American History class that many of the earliest European settlers came to our shores in search of religious freedom.  But while our textbooks focus on Puritans, Pilgrims and Quakers, Kritzler documents the central role played by Jews in the exploration and colonization of the Americas.

It makes great sense that the crews of many expeditions to the New World included Jewish sailors fleeing the intense persecution of the Spanish Inquisition, which began in the late 1400s. Non-Christians in Spain and Portugal at the time had three choices: convert to Christianity, leave the country or be burned at the stake. Given those options, getting as far away from home as possible must have seemed like a good idea.

As Kritzler explains, this desire for escape also motivated young Jews to develop essential nautical skill sets. “Outlawed in the civilized world and vulnerable in the Diaspora, Jews became skilled in ways to find and explore new lands. They were the era’s foremost mapmakers, and also perfected the nautical instruments and astronomical tables the early explorers sailed with. When Jewish expertise was needed, prejudice took a backseat to expediency, and Jewish pilots, adept at reading maps and using navigational instruments, were recruited to interpret those tables. Had they not, many an explorer would have been lost in the vast oceans.”

Kritzler makes a strong case that Christopher Columbus, his financial backers and many of his crew were “secret Jews,” surviving as converted Christians or “conversos.” So we learn that in addition to finding a new trade route to Asia for the Spanish crown, Columbus was seeking a safe new home for his people. And while he didn’t live long enough to see it, a thriving Jewish community – - for the most part out of the reach of the Inquisition – - developed in Jamaica, where Columbus first came ashore in the New World.

As you might guess, not everything would always go as planned on the high seas. Prejudice and betrayal followed the Jewish explorers wherever they went. In response, some turned to the risky but lucrative life of pirating. Kritzler introduces us to many of these colorful, fiercely independent characters who have been lost to history.

Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean is a fascinating read for history buffs and anyone interested in the powerful role exclusion plays in motivating people to create their own futures – - no matter how high the risk.

Happy New Year!

 

 

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A Holiday Gift Idea Worth Consideration

December 2nd, 2013

Yesterday’s Detroit Free Press featured a fascinating interview with my good friend Judge Damon Keith. Reporter Cassandra Spratling covers a lot of interesting ground (in print and video formats) discussed in Judge Keith’s recently published biography, Crusader for Justice.  Last month I had the pleasure of hosting a book-launch luncheon at the Detroit Athletic Club that brought together many of Damon’s friends. We celebrated the publication of what I believe should be a must-read for anyone interested in our nation’s historic drive toward civil rights and equal opportunity. Asked by Cassandra Spratling what he hopes people will learn about him in the book, Judge Keith answers: “He did the best he could with his God-given talent and he used his life and the law to try to make things better for all Americans.” If you are looking for a great holiday gift, consider giving someone you love a copy of Crusader for Justice. Judge Keith’s life story is a powerful example of how one person, regardless of the obstacles he or she must overcome, can make a positive difference in the lives of millions of Americans.

Philanthropist A. Alfred Taubman, from left, Nathan Conyers and Keith chat at the release party for Keith's biography last month.

Jarrad Henderson/Detroit Free Press


Taubman Scholar’s Research Improves Early Detection of Prostate Cancer

October 22nd, 2013

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among men, but accurate early detection of the deadly disease – - based primarily on measuring PSA levels in the blood – - has been a major challenge for physicians.

Using advanced technology to diagnose and treat prostate cancer is the focus of Taubman Scholar Dr. Arul Chinnaiyan’s work at the University of Michigan Medical School.  His discovery-driven research has identified a gene that appears to be a molecular marker for aggressive forms of prostate cancer. This discovery gives doctors a dependable way to predict which prostate cancers will spread and which will remain localized. That helps doctors and patients make better decisions about which cases require intensive treatment.

Demonstrating how breakthrough science can quickly be translated into effective medical treatment, U of M is now offering a urine test called Mi-Prostate Score based on Dr. Chinnaiyan’s discovery. The new test has proven to be far more accurate than the PSA analysis alone.

Saving lives today and curing diseases tomorrow is what the A. Alfred Taubman Medical research Institute is all about. It’s the brilliant work of scientist/physicians like Arul Chinnaiyan that convinces me that there are no medical challenges beyond our grasp.

Read more about Dr. Chinnaiyan’s discovery here.


Shopping on the Sunny Side of the Street

September 25th, 2013

Some of the highest retail rents in the world, exceeding $3,500 per square foot, can be found in New York City. According to a September 25, 2013, article in The New York Times, the 10 blocks on Fifth Avenue between Central Park and Rockefeller Center (49th to 59th Street) is the most competitive – - and expensive – - shopping district on the planet, followed by Lan Kwai Fong in Hong Kong, the Champs-Elysees in Paris, and New Bond Street in London.

With the economic environment steadily improving, demand for retail space in districts throughout the Big Apple is heating up. To say the least, things are getting brighter.

Which leads me to what I think are the most interesting points made in the article by Times retail reporter Stephanie Clifford. The story’s headline, “A Premium for a Storefront in the Sun – - Retailers Pay More For Side of Street Shoppers Prefer,” could be taken right out of Chapter 5 in my memoir Threshold Resistance.

The chapter, titled “Creating 100 Percent Locations,” explains how I designed my enclosed malls to capture the best characteristics of traditional shopping districts, while minimizing the negatives that contributed to Threshold Resistance. The Times article reveals something good merchants and developers have known for centuries: store owners want to be on the sunny side of the street and so do shoppers.

The article points out, “As Manhattan rents rise over all, retailers are vying for prime locations, and are paying a premium for areas like the east side of Fifth Avenue – - the sunnier side of the street . . . Shoppers generally gravitate to the sunny side of the street, and natural light helps showcase retailers’ goods.”

One of the advantages a well-designed enclosed shopping center offers retailers and shoppers are two sunny sides of the street, day and night. In fact, by eliminating the street all together, along with the dangerous vehicular traffic it carries, customers can “oscillate” freely between the shops on both sides of the corridor. That translates to higher sales per square foot for the merchant and higher rent per square foot for the landlord.

The article also sates: “Counterintuitively, retailers like to set up shop next to direct competitors, so customers can wander from one like-minded store into the next.”   That’s certainly not “counterintuitive” to any good merchant or developer. “Adjacencies,” is the term we use to describe the critical function of placing the stores in a shopping center in the ideal locations – - again, for both the retailer and the shopper – - to break down (you guessed it) Threshold Resistance.

If you have a moment, read the article – - and then revisit Chapter 5 in Threshold Resistance to get the rest of the story!

 


An Ageless Take on Old Age

July 12th, 2013

Reading The New York Times over the holiday weekend, I couldn’t help but be drawn to a headline on the opinion page: “The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.)”

What followed was a wonderful essay by an author and professor of neurology at New York University named Oliver Sacks. Reflecting on the approach of his 80th birthday, Dr. Sacks shares his very positive outlook on life. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Sacks, but as someone who is six months away from turning 90, I admire this young man’s joyful attitude. It’s a beautifully written celebration of a life well lived, well worth the read for people of all ages.