A new year means new tenants, new projects, and new media placements for Kimco. The retail sector has been facing some harsh headlines as the year opened, but Kimco is thriving -- and these news stories show it. Between big redevelopments, programs to assist small businesses, and expert commentary on the state of real estate, Kimco has had a lot to talk about.

Here’s a roundup of Kimco’s biggest stories from the first quarter.

Kimco talks real estate

Several big Kimco names made it to the media this quarter, with CEO Conor Flynn speaking on misconceptions about the state of retail real estate on CNBC’s Power Lunch. Conor warned against painting retail with a broad brush, and that despite the decline of large box retailers, Kimco is 97 percent occupied in its anchor spaces, in part because of strong demand from grocers, off-price concepts, and health and wellness retailers. He continued this line of thought in Bisnow, assuring readers that “What we’re dealing with is a little bit of a perception recession in retail.”

The CEO could also be found praising the promotions of two senior members of the Kimco team. Ross Cooper picked up the title of president, in addition to his Chief Investment Officer position, and David Jamieson was promoted to Chief Operating Officer. Of the appointments, Conor said they “are well deserved and a part of our long-term succession planning efforts.”

Changes were also made to Kimco’s Board of Directors with the addition of Mary Hogan Preusse, managing director and co-head of Americas Real Estate for APG Asset Management US. Kimco founder and Executive Chairman Milton Cooper described Ms. Hogan as “one of the most respected individuals in the REIT industry.”

Kimco’s properties were big topics of discussion too, with its Dania Point project becoming a major talking point at this year’s ICSC Open Air Summit in Miami. The center was praised as being “a great example of a new project destined for success because of its focus on creating a destination with memorable spaces and places” in the March issue of Shopping Centers Today.

Big developments

Several of our biggest development projects made headlines this quarter, spanning the country from Lincoln Square, a new mixed-use development project in Philadelphia; to the completion of a parking garage at Pentagon Centre in Arlington, Virginia; to the kickoff to a redevelopment of Kentlands Market Square in Bethesda, Maryland, which will include national and local retailers, a modern façade, and more universal landscaping.

Of particular interest was Pennsylvania’s Suburban Square redevelopment, as that project continues to pick up steam. The Philadelphia Inquirer highlights that the renovation will include the expansion of the Trader Joe’s food market and a four-level, 625-space parking garage. The property has already had an additional four leases signed before the expansion -- one of them by Life Time Fitness, a high-end fitness center, which CBS Philly reported would include a spa and salon, steam rooms, saunas, and a café.

In Texas, Grand Parkway Marketplace Phase I opened the first of its anchor tenants -- a Target with “several new features for the chain” -- and will benefit from the large growth of medical, retail, residential, and office space that has taken place in the area. Demand for retail space in the area is high, and anchors have already signed on at Grand Parkway Marketplace II, located just across the street.

Kimco also saw major redevelopments in two of their 30-year-old village centers, Hickory Ridge and Wilde Lake in Columbia, Maryland. Greg Reed, Kimco’s vice president of development, talked to the Baltimore Sun about how the Hickory Ridge expansion would “really situate this center for the next 10, 20 and 30 years.” The other village center, Wilde Lake, recently underwent an $18.1 million makeover which provided it with 90,000 square feet of retail and office space, as well as 230 residential units. Among its newest tenants are Dynamic Dental, Salons by JC, and a drive-in Starbucks, which was drawn in “by the residential component of the center, as it ensures a steady stream of foot traffic to their location.”

On Staten Island, Kimco’s Hylan Plaza has been picking up some press due to leasing announcements and newly rendered images released this quarter as the center is rebranded as The Boulevard. The new $150 million project will have a sleek, multi-level “Main Street” format, and will keep several of the center’s most popular tenants, such as local favorite Via Napoli Pizza, and Sterling Optical.

Programs worth talking about

Special Kimco initiatives have also grabbed the attention of the media this quarter. The newly implemented SCORE program, mentioned in ICSC, was detailed as an educational program for landlords to help foster small-shop tenants. Through the program, participants are given a mentor based on the type of business they are opening, and have access to training and other services at SCORE’s local chapters.

Of course, Kimco’s sustainability efforts have always been top-of-the-line, which is why the Illumi-Nation initiative grabbed the attention of websites from to Facility Executive. Nate Mitten, senior manager of property standards and improvements, talked to the latter about the project, and called it “a key component of the company’s vision for best-in-class shopping centers.” added that “the Illumi-Nation program has increased the quality of lighting at shopping centers, improved curb appeal, and enhanced safety and security,” as well as cutting energy consumption 30 to 40 percent per site.

We’ll see you in June for more Kimco media coverage.