Shared Visions of Successful Retail Centers: The 25-year Collaboration Between Waters Retail Group and RGS Associates
In the world of business, success isn’t always measured by celebrated projects, multiple locations, or industry recognition. What’s mattered most to RGS over the past 30 years are the lasting relationships we continue to build with our clients and industry partners to have a positive impact on the communities we serve.
Over the past year, we’ve highlighted several of our longstanding partnerships with senior living and residential clients. We wanted to take this opportunity to highlight one of our many longstanding commercial clients, Waters Retail Group. What’s made this relationship special isn’t just our shared goals of designing and developing beautiful, bustling commercial projects; it’s our shared vision for how those goals are met.
When it comes to its commercial projects, Waters Retail Group wants site designs that are unique, innovative, and special. For this, they require a team of land planners and civil engineers who are talented, intentional, and detail-oriented—just like they are.
After more than two decades of commercial success, RGS Associates and Waters Retail Group have developed a partnership that is not only efficient and productive, but also innovative and mutually rewarding.
A Relationship Built on Quality Design and Attention to Detail
Waters Retail Group president Joe Waters said his company primarily focuses on developing shopping centers and in that capacity has partnered with RGS on numerous design, development, and redevelopment projects over the years.
“We’re different from other developers in the sense that we’re long-term property holders,” Joe said. “We build a quality center from the ground up. We don’t just buy and sell the lot.”
One of the earlier collaborations between RGS and Waters Retail Group is the Shoppes at Kissel Village, which houses both a Target and a Giant Foods, as well as several other commercial businesses.
RGS Principal Alex Piehl said the Shoppes at Kissel Village represents the quality projects Waters Retail Group is known for throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
“Shoppes at Kissel Hill is a more conventional model of retail and restaurant groupings in a shopping center,” he said. As the center grew over the years, he said it required more redevelopment, especially with the addition of Target and other retail and restaurant tenants.
What differentiates Waters Retail Group as a partner? Not surprisingly, it’s the same thing that differentiates RGS Associates as a partner.
“They put a lot of care into their centers and have an unparalleled attention to detail,” Alex said of the Waters Retail Group team.
Of the RGS team, Joe said, “They are extremely focused on the project as a whole and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.”
The Next Generation of Shopping Centers
Outside of the Shoppes at Kissel Village, one of the most recognizable shopping centers in Lancaster County is the Shoppes at Belmont in Manheim Township.
A point of pride for both RGS and Waters Retail Group, Shoppes at Belmont exemplifies the future of shopping center development. The property is a mixed-use development that features retail, restaurants, and residential housing. Unique to Belmont is the incorporation of existing natural and historic features into the design, creating some unexpected site features for customers, residents, and visitors.
For example, the site features the presence of lime kilns, a quarry, wetlands, a stream corridor, and the reconstruction of historic stone piers. When additional lime kilns were discovered during construction, RGS redesigned a primary road in the development to preserve them as part of the project. Another unique feature that was preserved as part of the Belmont project was a family graveyard that dates back to the 1880s.
Perhaps the most challenging site feature to incorporate into the design was a portion of the four-acre quarry in the center of the property that reached a depth of 35 feet. To maximize the square footage of the retail stores, RGS’s plans called for partially filling in the quarry and utilizing it for stormwater management. An existing concrete quarry platform was redesigned to serve as an outdoor seating area.
Crucial to both Waters Retail Group and RGS was a design that cultivated a sense of community.
“We wanted a place where people could come together,” Joe said.
To that end, the Shoppes at Belmont includes a mile of trails and sidewalks as well as a stream corridor running through the property. These features make the development feel closer and more unified, creating opportunities for people to connect.
“It was important to us that the property feels walkable,” Alex said. “We were aiming for that Main Street feel.”
That sense of community is best represented by the fountain in the center of the Belmont main street roundabout, which has become a landmark in the area, bringing people together for a variety of community events, including music performances. The fountain is a signature element of Belmont’s town square, along with the stage and bus shelter.
“We had to make sure you could see it from the highway,” Alex said.
“We were definitely going for that ‘WOW’ effect,” Joe added when describing the Belmont sign located in the reconstructed pond at the intersection of Route 30 and Fruitville Pike.
Between Waters Retail Group’s attention to detail and the design innovations from RGS, the Shoppes at Belmont blends efficient functionality with beautiful design.
A Mutual Respect
The relationship between Waters Retail Group and RGS is built on a strong foundation of trust, respect, and friendship.
Alex said Waters Retail Group is more than just a commercial shopping center developer. They are dedicated to their properties and care about their long-term success.
“They put time and effort into every one of their developments, and it shows,” Alex said. “The Shoppes at Belmont is more than just a retail center; it’s a central gathering place for the surrounding community.”
Joe’s appreciation of the partnership with RGS is evident, as well. They are the “gold standard” of landscape architecture, he said.
“RGS is who I compare everyone else to,” Joe said. “The biggest thing I notice again and again is their top-notch communication and attention to detail. They are great in the public arena and know how to get projects done.”