How a mall-turned-public park saved downtown Columbus

Columbus Commons hosts more than 200 events a year, including a Harvest Fair on September 30, 2017. Marielle Segarra, Marketplace

When mall repair is not economically or structurally feasible, sometimes re-greening a dead mall site in the form of a park or urban agriculture is the best option. The City Center mall in Columbus, Ohio has been reincarnated as a downtown park called Columbus Commons, and it’s driving the resurgence of activity and property value.

“Capitol South, a nonprofit development corporation created by the city, took over the property and started looking at redevelopment plans. The group considered turning the mall into an office building or a medical-research center. “Each one of the plans that we looked at either financially didn’t pencil out, or from a constructability point of view, it simply couldn’t be done,” said Guy Worley, CEO of Capitol South.

Instead, Capitol South decided to knock down the mall and build a park. The group was inspired by similar projects, like Bryant Park in New York City.

A big lesson, said Worley, is that on its own, creating a green space isn’t enough. You needed to bring people there. So Columbus Commons has an outdoor stage and a café, and it hosts more than 200 events a year — many of them free — like yoga classes and concerts.

Developers are offering vacant malls to Amazon in HQ bidding war

Communities and owners of dying malls are teaming on the bid to attract Amazon’s new headquarters.  It’s a smart idea that would be even smarter if some housing was thrown into the mix to create a complete community in the process.

“As Amazon’s deadline for bids on where to build its second headquarters approaches, developers are offering up derelict malls as potential sites.

Pittsburgh’s Parkway Center Mall is exhibit A for the nationwide trend with the owner, Kossman Development, changing up their new plans to rebuild the former mall to suit the needs of Amazon.

The old mall’s 35-acre site would become a 5.4 million-square-foot office space surrounded by bike paths and green spaces with 680,000 square feet of retail spread throughout the would-be office campus. The developer’s president Curtis Kossman submitted the revised plans to the Pittsburgh committee handling the Amazon bid last week.”

Read the original story by The Chicago Tribune’s E.K. Hudson

Now that Amazon’s a thing, malls have to get creative to survive

A Gold’s gym at a mall in West Covina, California. Source: Mashable

The malls that will survive into the future will be the ones that offer more than just retail. It will be crucial for mall operators to provide a variety of experiences and places that foster socialization. These malls, or lifestyle centers, can be achieved by reintegrating living, working, learning, playing – not only within the mall structures – but also through activation of the underutilized parking. Patrick Kulp of Mashable writes:

“Desperate to plug empty retail holes, mall owners are turning to less traditional businesses like gyms, grocery stores, and high-end restaurants to keep foot traffic flowing.

Some have even transformed parts of the buildings into office parks, medical facilities, or homes.

The new trend raises the question: What even is a mall anymore?

According to CBL & Associates, modern malls need to be “vibrant town centers,” replete with lifestyle and entertainment options beyond simple retail. The property group announced a rebrand of its own 113 spaces to this effect on Thursday.

The idea is to preserve the function that malls once served as a suburban social institution for a generation that may not even know what a “mall rat” is.”

Read more about reenergizing malls through Sprawl Repair. 

When Lincoln Square was iconic

In 1964, when nine square blocks of historic homes and businesses were demolished for the construction of the shopping center and accompanying parking lot, Urbana was optimistic about the shopping center, hoping that it would revitalize its downtown area.

The Champaign-Urbana community is facing many challenges while seeking an elusive solution for the “dead” Lincoln Square Mall in Downtown Urbana. Designed in 1964 by Victor Gruen, and now designated historic and protected from demolition, few options are available. The solution lies in adaptive reuse that should aim for a variety of uses designed to spur innovation, excitement and foot traffic.

“In 2004, a plan to reintegrate Lincoln Square back into the downtown and redevelop the building with apartments, open space, and offices fell through. That same year it and the adjoining hotel were listed on the National Register of Historic Places, preventing its demolition and forcing Urbana to work around it when trying to revitalize its downtown. Thirteen years later, its future is still up in the air as Carle and Health Alliance recently announce that they are leaving the complex. Various plans to introduce apartments and modern retail space to the area have been proposed, but none have come close to fruition.”

Singapore needs to reinvent retail scene

The retail meltdown due to online competition and an overabundance of physical stores is now being experience world-wide. Retailers intent on survival will need to be lean, flexible and creative to stay competitive. But it will require more than just department store chains to participate in finding solutions for failing malls.

“STB assistant chief executive Lynette Pang once said: “In today’s fast-changing tourism and consumer landscape, we cannot stay still.” It is therefore crucial for landlords, retailers and relevant government agencies to think “out of the box” to allow new brands and exciting concepts to flourish and take shape.

Increasingly, the experiential factor is key in making a difference to Singapore’s retail scene. Shopping malls can reinvent themselves with unique experiential retail spaces that set them apart from the mainstream. For example, the opening of Jewel Changi Airport in early 2019 will distinguish itself as home to Singapore’s largest indoor garden and the world’s largest indoor waterfall, featuring a light and sound show every night to enable visitors to shop, dine and play in one place. The new Funan DigitaLife Mall, set to open by end-2019, will be the first commercial building in Singapore to allow cycling through the building, and have rooftop farms that offer visitors a rest from the urban crowd.

With such unique and activity-based retail zones, landlords are better able to make their retail spaces break out of the homogeneity among retail malls.

Nordstrom Tries On a New Look: Stores Without Merchandise

Retail of the future may be more about experience than consumption.  According to Suzanne Kapner of The Wall Street Journal, some stores will not even carry clothing:

Mall owners take a pay cut amid brick-and-mortar struggles

 discusses a Wall Street Journal article by Peter Grant on declining compensation for mall owners due to a correction to the over-built retail environment and a result of the shift to e-commerce.

The Great Recession helped accelerate a natural correction, experts say. Last year, retail analyst Jan Kniffen, CEO of J. Rogers Kniffen Worldwide Enterprises, said that while America at the time had about 1,100 enclosed malls, that number should be around 700 — meaning that roughly a third are destined to close.

Those remaining will likely be robust, according to Nick Egelanian, president of retail development consultants SiteWorks International. “In a strange twist, however, the smaller number of malls that remain operating when the dust settles will become virtually indestructible by offering only best-in-class higher end merchandise in exclusive collections.  We already know who the winners will be, and the vast majority are owned and operated by four REITs: Simon, Westfield, Macerich and GGP.”

Incremental mall retrofits and sprawl repair can be the key to which malls succed.

Grocery Stores Move In On Suburban Locations

The interior of Natick Mall, MA, the upcoming location of a new Wegmans store

Laura Hillen writes that grocery retailers are finding new homes as mall anchors in suburbia.

Due to declining foot traffic, many retailers are now preparing to close a large number of their stores. These closures are leaving empty mall spaces in their wake.

Food retail is one thing helping struggling malls survive,” June Williamson, an architecture professor at the City College of New York, and Co-Author of Retrofitting Suburbia.

Williamson also stated that losing an anchor store and its lease payment can make it difficult for a mall’s survival. However, malls are starting to focus on answering consumer needs apart from just clothing. As the consumer shopping experience continues to change, malls could prove a successful financial hub by offering food-related business.

Retrofits of existing malls can capitalize on proximity to infrastructure, housing, parking and public transportation. Grocers and other non-traditional mall uses, such as offices and health care, can benefit the entire region without the need to build from the ground up.

Why the Death of Malls Is About More Than Shopping

Josh Sanburn offers an historic perspective on American malls, and a glimpse into the future for malls and communities willing to invest in sprawl repair and place-making. Learn more about Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva.

Local jobs are a major casualty of what analysts are calling, with only a hint of hyperbole, the retail apocalypse. 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.

Local jobs are a major casualty of what analysts are calling, with only a hint of hyperbole, the retail apocalypse.

In the 61 years since the first enclosed one opened in suburban Minneapolis, the shopping mall has been where a huge swath of middle-class America went for far more than shopping. But for better or worse, the mall has been America’s public square for the last 60 years.

Some of the great mall die-off is what economists refer to as a market correction. “We are over-retailed,” says Ronald Friedman, a partner at Marcum LLP, which researches consumer trends. There is an estimated 26 sq. ft. of retail for every person in the U.S., compared with about 2.5 sq. ft. per capita in Europe. Roughly 60% of Macy’s stores slated to close are within 10 miles of another Macy’s.

Some ailing malls have already moved on to a second life. Austin Community College in Texas purchased Highland Mall in 2012 and converted part of it into a tech-driven learning lab and library. In Nashville, Vanderbilt University Medical Center moved into the second floor of the 100 Oaks Mall a few miles from downtown. The Southland Christian Church in Lexington, Ky., bought their nearby mall and transformed part of it into an auditorium.

It also turns out that not everyone wants to spend their leisure time inside. Many of the new, millennial-focused malls are indoor/outdoor complexes designed as one cog of a suburban town center that includes apartments and office space … a magnet for millennials who are leaving downtowns for the suburbs but still want to live in a dense, walkable community.

There are still about 1,100 malls in the U.S. today, but a quarter of them are at risk of closing over the next five years, according to estimates from Credit Suisse.

 

 

Sears to close 43 more stores to cut costs

A Sears department store is pictured in La Jolla, California, U.S., March 22, 2017.
REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE

“Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD.O) is closing eight of its namesake department stores and 35 Kmart locations to cut costs and square footage in an effort to return to profitability, Chief Executive Officer Eddie Lampert said on Friday. The store closings are in addition to 150 the company announced in January.

“This is part of a strategy both to address losses from unprofitable stores and to reduce the square footage of other stores because many of them are simply too big for our current needs.”

As anchor tenants like Sears retreat, smaller adjacent retailers will suffer from reduced foot traffic. Where possible, increasing density utilizing Sprawl Repair techniques can return jobs and tax revenue to communities.

What to do with dead malls?

Anson Burtch writes about the escalating “retail apocalypse”, and successful options for the failing model of enclosed retail space surrounded by acres of parking.

“From a land-use perspective, dead malls are full of possibility. They occupy large swaths of often valuable land at crossroads or central locations with access to public transit and highways. When they were originally built, the land was frequently at the growing edges of suburbia but has since grown considerably in value by virtue of surrounding development and transportation improvements. This makes even dead malls valuable “land banking” assets for their owners.  In addition, the considerable volume of unencumbered raw space that is found in a typical anchor store makes them quite flexible for adaptive reuse. The desire and attention to revitalizing these areas has become a top priority and focus for local governments.”

“Luckily there are many options for revitalizing these properties. Remodeling as mixed-use developments has proven successful in many instances, and even more so when tied into transit systems. Other times finding unique tenants such as local governments, hospital systems, or libraries makes profitable and efficient use of the space. With a little creativity and a lot of willpower, communities can turn a potential unproductive eyesore into opportunity.”

Find tools for mall retrofits and more, in the Sprawl Repair Manual.

Brick & mortar vs. Amazon: Mall stores getting Amazonned into deep doo-doo

Horton Plaza. Important retailers started deserting it not long after it opened. A huge part of it has been ripped down.

The need to retrofit failing malls is becoming ever more urgent:

“On May 31, the big bank Credit Suisse predicted that 25 percent of malls would be gone in the next five years. Earlier forecasts had also been dire, and results prove them to have been accurate. Malls used to be anchored by big department stores — Sears, JCPenney, Macy’s, and the like.

All are now in deep doo-doo and closing stores, upsetting the malls that relied upon them as consumer draws and sources of revenue. The smaller mall stores, which pay higher rent per square foot than the anchors, are having trouble, further biting into mall revenue and traffic.”

Commentary: The mall is dead — long live the mall

Jun 20, 2017:  Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board spoke to Joshua Harris, director of the Dr. P. Phillips Institute for Research and Education in Real Estate at the University of Central Florida, to ask about malls:

“Q: Did shopping malls ever serve a purpose in society, beyond retailing? What changed, if anything?

A: Shopping malls became the de facto “town square” during the suburban development boom of the ’70s and ’80s. They were the place to go, hang out and be seen. Thus, the urban resurgence that began in the late ’90s, and really intensified in the past 10 years, has taken the “town square” back to the more natural walkable, urban environment. Places like Winter Park, Winter Garden, Thornton Park and now even Baldwin Park (close to 95 percent leased after suffering massive problems during the recession) are all the “hot” places to go on a Friday or Saturday. In reality, history will show that the suburban mall was the aberration, driven by urban decay and rising crime. With urban renewal and major declines in crime, the mall does not fit as well as it did for those few decades. There will be life for existing malls, but likely after being repurposed and designed to feel more like town centers.”

 

Where logical transportation and community infrastructure already exists, sprawl repair techniques can be used to add residential, office, entertainment, and public open space to spur an entire region with new, walkable Town Centers.

 

The Mall of the Future Will Have No Stores

PHOTO: FORD LAND At Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn, Mich., Starwood Capital brought in Ford, which converted a former department store into a workspace for its engineering and purchasing staff.

Shopping-center landlords are rethinking the traditional mall model—and shops aren’t necessarily part of the equation.

As retailers close bricks-and-mortar stores at an accelerating pace, shopping-center landlords like Starwood Capital are facing a vexing question: What to do with all this empty space?

Some landlords plug empty spaces with churches, for-profit schools and random enterprises while they figure out a long-term plan. Others see a future in mixed-use real estate, converting malls into streetscapes with restaurants, offices and housing. And some are razing properties altogether and turning them into entertainment or industrial parks.

Many mall owners are trying to liven up the experience, bringing more dining and entertainment tenants and eschewing the traditional mix.

Can Australia avoid the death of local malls?

Abandoned Malls by Seph Lawless-Source-Supplied

As Amazon nears offering service to Australia, Economist Jason Murphy hopes Australian malls can avoid the current American syndrome of dying malls. He offers the following suggestions that can also offer hope for our American malls through Sprawl Repair and Retrofit:

“Number one is probably to reduce their reliance on risky “anchor tenants”. Coles, Woolies, Target and Big W are shopping centre stalwarts, but none of them is certain to still be succeeding in a decade’s time. One or all of them could find the going a lot tougher in a world where Amazon is trying to win over our wallets.

The next big idea for shopping centres is to offer experiences not just goods. Amazon sells stuff you can get delivered to your door. But experiences — haircuts, manicures and massages; meals, coffees and movies — are still things people want to meet in person for.”

By increasing density and diversifying uses, dying malls can become innovative employment and social hubs that enrich the surrounding neighborhoods.

Regency’s retrofit: A model for Chesterfield?

Regency Square Mall in Richmond, Virginia is undergoing what’s called a suburban retrofit, a term used for taking aging malls, office parks and other suburban properties and transforming them into more sustainable, urban and mixed-use developments.

Both Regency Square and Chesterfield Towne Center opened in 1975 (back then the latter was the Chesterfield Mall), and the rejuvenation of Regency Square may offer a blueprint for Chesterfield Towne Center in the years to come.

Robert Gibbs, president of Gibbs Planning Group and author of the book “Principles of Urban Retail Planning and Development,” says Regency Square’s strategy may prove successful.

“I have seen those kinds of conversions work,” Gibbs says. “It’s when they turn the mall inside out and put the internal stores on the street.”

As department stores like Macy’s and Sears continue to struggle, Gibbs says the future is grim for the majority of America’s suburban malls.

“There’s about 2,000 of them, and we estimate that about 1,500 of them will close in the next five years, and that’s because they’re depending on department stores to stay open,” Gibbs says. “Without the department stores, it’s really hard to get people to go inside the mall.”

That said, Gibbs says malls in good locations can “right-size,” reducing their retail square footage and bringing in housing, entertainment and office space to create a walkable development where people can live, work and enjoy themselves.

Regency’s retrofit: A model for Chesterfield?

Regency Square Mall, which opened in 1975 in Richmond, Virginia, is undergoing what’s called a suburban retrofit, a term used for taking aging malls, office parks and other suburban properties and transforming them into more sustainable, urban and mixed-use developments.

Robert Gibbs, president of Gibbs Planning Group and author of the book “Principles of Urban Retail Planning and Development,” says Regency Square’s strategy may prove successful.

“I have seen those kinds of conversions work,” Gibbs says. “It’s when they turn the mall inside out and put the internal stores on the street.”

As department stores like Macy’s and Sears continue to struggle, Gibbs says the future is grim for the majority of America’s suburban malls.

“There’s about 2,000 of them, and we estimate that about 1,500 of them will close in the next five years, and that’s because they’re depending on department stores to stay open,” Gibbs says. “Without the department stores, it’s really hard to get people to go inside the mall.”

That said, Gibbs says malls in good locations can “right-size,” reducing their retail square footage and bringing in housing, entertainment and office space to create a walkable development where people can live, work and enjoy themselves.