Malls have always held a special place in our hearts. It’s where you spend a day with family, where teens find their independence, and where seniors enjoy strolling and socializing. Visitors may peruse a book, grab a coffee, try on clothes, check out new electronics or see a movie.
It is no secret that Amazon has disrupted the retail market. With 30 mega-shopping centers across the US currently abandoned and an additional 30% forecast to have significant vacancy by 2022, creatively repurposing these structures could provide huge returns on investment considering they are often sold well below market value. Developers are taking notice. The result is a variety of ingenious mixed-use projects.
THE KUSHNER EFFECT
Who better to convert the 1.5M S/F Monmouth Mall into something trendy? Kushner Companies plans to overhaul the mall that opened in 1960 into a 24/7 “live, work and entertainment” development which will include 700 residential units, retail and restaurant uses, biker and pedestrian-friendly greenspaces and an outdoor plaza. Kushner cited the decline of the traditional enclosed mall and consumer trends of the Millennial Generation as catalysts behind the redevelopment.
LIVE AT THE MALL
As the oldest indoor mall in America, the Arcade Mall in Rhode Island underwent massive renovations in 2012. The existing three story structure with a grand open central corridor was redesigned, maintaining retail commercial space on its ground level and converting the top two floors to ‘Micro Lofts,’ ushering in a new type of mixed-use, affordable urban living.
Finding the closed Mayfield Mall in California to be a perfect location for their corporate headquarters, Hewlett-Packard occupied the space for a decade until Google purchased it in 2013 to house its Google Glass offices.
RECYCLE… & EDUCATE!
While not as exciting as micro lofts and greenhouses, the mall in Illinois was converted into a high school which made a quick impact on the local economy, utilizing the space for a necessary expansion of the school system. In Tennessee, the Hickory Hollow Mall added a community center, a community college campus and an NHL practice rink.
Today’s Malls incorporate modern features like art exhibits, interactive maps and digital tabletops in restaurants. Many feature pop-up shops for food and seasonal/local retailers, and some have even deconstructed food courts into higher-end restaurants with mid-market options. In some cases, empty spaces are used as warehouses for “click and collect” merchandise.
Tomorrow’s Malls will include progressive elements like heated parking and sidewalks, smart parking garages, and solar panels with other green elements. They will incorporate nanotechnology into exterior finishes, have increased walkability via transit hubs, and have “downtown” experiences incorporated. Many will feature increases in co-working, living, and civic spaces.
Malls of the Future could offer shopping personalization via in-store digital profiles, interactive fitting suites, mobile app checkout, and drone package delivery for hands-free convenience. Rooftops will include dining, entertainment and garden spaces, and food courts will resemble street festivals. Inside, common areas will double as event and educational spaces, and facilities will feature experiences like cooking classes, pop-up shops, and specialty food stores.
While shopping on-line may offer a level of convenience in an otherwise busy lifestyle, the mall of the future will be based around consumer experiences that go well beyond traditional shopping.
Brad Domenico is Managing Director at Progress Capital Advisors.