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App aims to make site selection simpler

ICSC Past Chairman Liz Holland is helping to streamline the traditional retail site-selection process through an iOS-based app she introduced this month, called LayerCake, which reportedly replaces the usual tools industry professionals use for market analysis and tour management.

“The questions that LayerCake answers are the same questions I’ve been getting for the last 20 years as a retail and office developer,” Holland said. “For 20 years I’ve had to generate manual paper reports and put them in PDFs and email them to people in documents that are probably outdated the second you send them.” Holland is CEO and general counsel of Chicago-based Abbell Associates, a real estate acquisition and redevelopment firm that specializes in retail and office properties across the country. Holland was ICSC's very first vice chairman, in 2015–2016, and then she was chairman from 2016 to 2017. 

The LayerCake platform consolidates multiple data sources, such as area household income, daytime population, transportation options and drive times, as well as street views and satellite aerial views atop site locations. The app also shows site visibility, area co-tenancy, detailed descriptions about each property, location photos, blueprints and marketing materials. Another layer adds computer-aided-design site proposals. Users can live-stream presentations for tours, respond to comments in real time and export visual data.

LayerCake President Joe Sauer began developing the application three years ago. Holland recognized its usefulness for her own business and for other industry professionals. She and Sauer then formed Chicago-based Consortial Technologies to develop the application for general use.

“Users can live-stream presentations for tours, respond to comments in real time and export visual data”

“What’s cool about LayerCake is [that] you can compare sites, and you can toggle between all [the] sites in a market that you might be considering and compare them using a host of different metrics,” said Holland. “As you’re driving [through] a market and you’re looking at a site, you are able to make notes into the app, which is why we like the use with iPads.” Development is under way on an Android version, she says.

The LayerCake name derives from a software developer who jokingly described the project as having so many layers it was like a cake. “The name stuck and people like it," said Holland. "It’s very descriptive as to what we’ve built."

The company is targeting asset managers, Sauer says, and is also at work with a top retail brand and some major retail developers.

By Ben Johnson

Contributor, Shopping Centers Today

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