Landscaping may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a shopping center, but it is one of the first things you see when you visit one. And first impressions are important.

In all aspects of our business and our shopping centers, Kimco makes sure that quality is seen -- even in the details. That’s why we pioneered a landscaping program for our centers. Through a set of creative ideas, formal rules, and templates, we’ve transformed the way our shopping centers handle landscaping; getting the most visual “pop,” look, and feel of the color schemes that pull our locations together.

We developed four main guidelines to tie our Kimco landscape together:

  1. The display must be lush and full by using mature materials.
  2. While the emphasis on green, purple, and yellow color vary from center to center in our base material template, Kimco landscapes rely on some measure of local perennial color to accent these base colors.
  3. Seasonal color is more of a luxury, not a necessity.
  4. The criteria for plant selection rests on color, texture, and durability.

Planting the seeds of success

The unfortunate truth is that much of shopping centers’ landscaping looks the same. In most cases, it’s only when the customer sees a company’s name on the pylon, monument, or property leasing sign that they realize who owns the center.

Our goal was to change that perception through the power of landscaping. Our Florida shopping centers seemed a particularly good target for adding a branding approach to the landscaping within our portfolio, adding a bit of personality and creativity to separate Kimco’s properties from the rest.

Additionally, creating focal points, adding to, and redesigning the existing landscape beds were the perfect opportunities to maximize our sustainability efforts. By grouping plants with similar watering needs and right sizing the material to the size of the bed, we could make sure that we eliminated waste by only using the water needed in such groupings. A two-foot hedge around the perimeter of the property can reduce noise and filter carbon emissions, further adding to Kimco’s sustainability efforts.

A hedge being used at our Mission Bell center

Ideas begin to grow

The first thing we needed was a theme: What did people think of when they came to Florida? Sun, water, and most importantly, color. We used color to conceptualize design, sun, and climate using native species and the grouping of plants with similar watering needs.

We came up with a set of four design principles -- variety, composition, proportion, and emphasis -- to guide the process. Our goal was to have a baseline set of plants, about eight to 12, which we could mix and match throughout the property. Each would have a similar color scheme, but different textures, to ensure that the arrangements popped. Plants would be arranged in groups throughout the property and left to grow naturally, allowing the landscape to really come into its own. All ornamental trees and shrubs would be shaped to blend with the natural growth of the plants.

An example of a landscaping template from our Citrus Park center

Some of the plants we used included sunshine ligustrum, variegated jasmine, confederate jasmine, and croton. All of these work well in the Florida climate, bringing together different shades of color while creating one cohesive design.

A blooming success

Our landscape strategy has succeeded in everything we wanted it to do: separate the Kimco brand from our neighbors, draw attention to the detail of our centers, and create a more pleasant experience for our customers. Everyone from the casual shopper to local garden clubs have called property managers to inquire about the landscaping designs or ask about a specific plant, drawing more attention to our centers and in a few cases, even winning several municipal and local garden club awards.

Kimco brandscaping at our Riverplace Courtyard center

While the plants have been a huge success, we still like to mix it up, changing out plants annually. We look for a new species or a hybrid of existing species just to shake up the view a little bit. It’s part science and part art, making landscaping a difficult, but ultimately rewarding, challenge. Today, 90 of our Southern Region centers have undergone various stages of Kimco “brandscaping.” The practice has added a lot to our centers, and we hope to expand it to even more locations in the coming years.