Gart’s Mark Sidell counts on ‘patience and groundwork’

The man perhaps most responsible for bringing popular global retailer H&M to Colorado revealed the secret to making the deal: patience and a lot of groundwork.

Mark Sidell, president of Gart Properties since 1999, said the company took risks to give the Denver Pavilions an upgrade at a time when “most everyone else was sticking their head in the sand.”

Denver-based Gart bought the 347,000-square-foot shopping center on the 16th Street Mall in 2008 and immediately sunk tens of millions of dollars into infrastructure work, mainly into escalators, elevators and huge LED signs to increase visibility.

“It was important to provide an opportunity for every tenant to have a face on the 16th Street Mall, whether that was through the LED signs or other signage,” Sidell said.

With an average of 46,102 pedestrians per day walking by the center, according to the most recent traffic counts by the Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP), it’s easy to see why that would be important to a retailer.

Sidell said patience was the key to signing up H&M, which Gart had tried to land since buying the property. H&M will go into the former NikeTown space.

“The secret is listening and figuring out what everyone needs to make them put a check in the ‘win’ column, he said. “Listening and waiting make the biggest difference,” he said. “A lot of people are in a hurry to figure it out.”

It was also the topping on a “building block” process that included the upgrades, which attracted Forever 21 to a 32,000 square-foot-space.

Now with H&M — which is expected to open in November, before the busy holiday shopping season — Sidell said he’s getting calls from retailers who never would have looked at Denver before.

“Just securing them opened the door to several very exciting conversations with leading retailers/restaurateurs, who were enabled by this game changer,” he said.

Sidell, a graduate of Washington State University, came to Denver to earn an MBA in real estate and construction from the University of Denver and never left.

He worked as a principal for Trammel Crow Co. for 14 years before joining Gart.

He jumped at the chance to join an owner/developer that also had been a retailer. The Gart family owned Gart Sports for years before selling the chain to Sports Authority.

“The key difference between Gart Properties and most other landlords is the experience we have on both sides of the cash register,” he said. “The Gart family heritage includes three generations of being a tenant and multiple decades being a real estate investor and landlord.”

He learned about building relationships while working as a broker.

“In my business, long-term relationships are an enterprise. That’s what the real estate business is. It doesn’t happen in a day here,” he said.

In describing his leadership style, Sidell said: “It’s pretty simple. You recruit the best people. Build consensus around a goal and provide them with what they need to be successful … then you get out of the way.”

Tami Door, president and CEO of the DDP, said Sidell has been a huge asset to the Pavilions and downtown Denver.

“Mark has a very clear direction where he’s going with that property,” Door said. “He’s a great strategist and dealmaker. He decides he wants a particular tenant that aligns with the vision for the property and goes after them with gusto.”

She also pointed to his ability to build relationships “with retailers and the community,” which gives him “access to a lot of information and opportunities. He’s great at leveraging that.”

Outside of the Pavilions, Sidell enjoys community service work with the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, which he had served as board chairman, and the Jewish Community Foundation.

As far as what’s next for the Pavilions, Sidell promised big things are to come, but wouldn’t elaborate.

“The arrival of H&M marks a new chapter in the story of the Denver Pavilions and its ability to provide a shopping experience that can’t be found anywhere else in Colorado,” Sidell said.

Mark Sidell President Gart Properties Denver 303-399-2555