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The Future of Malls

Abandoned and dying shopping malls seem to be a fact of life these days. They were once busy hubs for shopping, socializing and grabbing a meal! Back in the day, I was excited to go to the mall, it was really the only option if you were hunting for a special outfit. Many times, you’d take the better part of a day to visit the mall and shop. I remember going to Woodfield mall in Schaumburg, it was the largest mall around where I grew up in Northern Illinois. We usually did a lot of window shopping, but the best part was lunch at the mall – so many options! My favorite restaurant was a place called Vie de France. My mom, sister and I would go and enjoy the French cuisine, like quiche or croissant sandwiches, and a glass of Chablis.

I guess if change must happen (and it will) I love seeing the malls being re-purposed. There are so many wonderful ways these big, old buildings can have new life breathed into them.

Here are a few great ideas:

  • Medical Facility

  • College

  • Mega Church

  • Housing / Retail / Office combo

  • Sports / Gaming Facility

  • Library

  • Conference Center

  • Cultural Center

  • Warehouse

  • Call Center

The Arcade Providence - a historic revival

Located in the center of downtown Providence, Rhode Island, The Arcade Providence was built in 1828 and it is the oldest indoor mall in the United States. After an extensive renovation, it is now home to 48 micro-loft apartments on the upper two floors, with a first floor of small business retail, including a full-service local foods restaurant, a coffee shop/whiskey bar, casual dining, and several unique retail shops.

An example of a micro-loft apartment

This icon of Providence and lobby of the city’s financial district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1976, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. The new Arcade Providence retains the historic value of the property and has won accolades from the City of Providence and the Providence Preservation Society. In a case like this, you must save the mall for it’s historical and architectural value and they have found a winning combination of uses to keep it alive.

Interior of The Arcade Providence Mall

“The reopening of the Arcade is an exciting development for Providence. This project breathes new life into America’s oldest indoor mall and one of our city’s most historically significant buildings, with a mix of retail, restaurants and affordable housing for young professionals in the heart of downtown Providence.”

— Angel Taveras, former Mayor of Providence

Creating multi-use spaces may be the answer

Converting malls into multi-service mini villages may be the key to using unoccupied real estate in the retail market, said Amanda Nicholson, professor of retail practice at Syracuse University.

“We don’t need all the mall space we have just for shopping,” Instead, Nicholson suggested integrating residential units, health clubs, grocery stores and upscale restaurants into malls to create more experiences.

Hickory Hollow Mall in Antioch, Tennessee

After losing both of its anchor stores, Hickory Hollow Mall in Antioch, Tennessee died out quickly. Two years went by, and a new mall re-appeared in its place: The Global Mall at the Crossings. Developers were creative this time around and opened up a brand-new practice ice skating rink for the Nashville Predators, a satellite campus for Nashville State Community College, and even a library in the building’s remaining space. The creative mixed use of space worked like a charm.

A portion of the former Hickory Hollow Mall now houses a practice rink for the Nashville Predators.

The former Hickory Hollow Mall also houses a Nashville State Community College campus.

Windsor Park Mall in San Antonio, Texas

Not only did this mall’s transformation convert the mall itself, but it sparked a positive change in the surrounding community as well. Windsor Park Mall opened its doors in 1976, but the neighborhood soon became overrun with crime. The mall closed in 2005 and sat vacant for two years before a startup tech company, Rackspace, decided to move in. Now dubbed “The Castle,” the company’s headquarters and higher-income employees have drawn in retail and residential projects to the area.

The former Windsor Park Mall is now headquarters for tech company, Rackspace.

Rackspace, the world's leading specialist in the hosting and cloud computing industry, decided to reinvigorate a once abandoned 765,046 SF shopping center and use it as their primary headquarters in San Antonio, TX. With over 2,000 employees and 161,000 customers, this new location has proved to be an excellent choice for headquarters. Pritchard Associates was hired by Rackspace to manage the construction of this unique office building, which was broken out into 5 construction phases. Rackspace began construction on Phase I in 2007 and finished the construction of Phase V in 2014. In addition to successfully converting the vacant shopping mall into Rackspace Hosting’s new headquarters, the building was certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“By 2022, analysts estimate that 1 out of every 4 malls in the U.S. could be out of business, victims of changing tastes, a widening wealth gap and the embrace of online shopping for everything from socks to swing sets.”*

Will Experience and Entertainment Keep Malls Alive?

Some mall operators are going to extremes. The American Dream shopping center in East Rutherford, NJ features indoor ski slopes, a water park and aquarium alongside 350 stores, including Hermès, Uniqlo and Zara. By the time it’s done, it will surpass the Mall of America in Minnesota, as the nation’s largest, by square footage.

Nickelodeon Universe brings the thrills indoors at New Jersey's American Dream mall.

It will house within its approximately 3 million square feet an indoor amusement park (allegedly the largest in the Western Hemisphere); a regulation-sized hockey rink; a water park; an aviary; a 16-story ski slope; a “live bunny field”; concert venues; mini golf; Lego-land; an aquarium; a luxury movie theater; three helipads; and stores, so many stores. The first two phases are open with two more phases coming soon!

IT'SUGAR is the World’s First Candy Department Store with 22,000 square feet of sweets. It spans three floors, with candy, gifts, and novelties. Snap a pic with a jelly bean-covered Statue of Liberty replica (symbolizing the freedom to “treat yourself”). Explore the first floor’s immersive lollipop garden. Then head upstairs to check out dozens of shops from Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish, Nerds, Starburst, Reese’s, Kellogg’s, and more. IT’SUGAR was founded in 2006 to provide a humorous escape from everyday life. It is now one of the largest specialty candy retailers in the world, with over 100 locations across the US.

A little over a month ago, REIR team member Logan and her son Dekker enjoyed the Sea Life experience at the Mall of America.

Projecting 40 million visitors annually, the American Dream complex will feature a distinct shopping environment dedicated to iconic luxury brands and younger, fashion-forward retail.

“For over 35 years, Triple Five Group (the mall’s developer) has embraced the concept that retail cannot exist without entertainment and experiential elements, and American Dream will further raise the bar,” said Don Ghermezian, president, American Dream. “Guests will experience something completely unique each time they visit -- this project will be the realization of their wildest dreams.”

The mall will also feature more than 100 dining destinations. American Dream recently announced a 10-year, multi-million-dollar partnership with The Coca Cola Company, which will have an 800-person dining center, social media storefront and green rooms at the mega mall.

North America’s first indoor ski resort is now open at the American Dream Mall in New Jersey.

As you can see there are many opportunities to rehab these old mall spaces and turn them into lively, useful spaces again!

— Michelle Boehmke

Source: * TIME: The Death and Life of the Shopping Mall, Jul 24, 2017

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