The Great Retail Retrofit

The abandoned Randall Park Mall in North Randall, Ohio Joshua Gunter/AP

Richard Florida describes how the “retail apocalypse” presents an opportunity to re-think and re-energize our communities in the wake of ongoing bankruptcies of chain stores, high-end retailers, suburban malls and metropolitan flagships. With hundreds of thousands of jobs lost, and more to come, Sprawl Repair presents a series of strategies for retrofitting communities at any scale.

“WeWork’s takeover of Lord & Taylor could be a good portent for urban economies. Work, not shopping, is the key to urban productivity and growth. … higher urban rents… are a function of higher urban productivity.

As talented people and high-paying jobs move back to cities, there is demand for more office space. But smaller companies and gig-economy workers need flexible coworking spaces that companies such as WeWork provide, and they need affordable living spaces as well. Both of these can be built in the shell of former retail spaces.

Educational and healthcare facilities, two land use types that are growing as retail shrinks, are a logical fit for these large, boxy spaces.

Mall retrofits can also help with resilience and sustainability efforts. Dunham-Jones and Williamson estimate that 10 such projects have been transformed into green infrastructure or parks.

Some of the most ambitious mall redevelopments are becoming mixed-use neighborhoods.

The Villa Italia Mall in Lakewood, Colorado, outside Denver, was almost completely demolished to make way for a new street grid lined with offices, arts facilities, parks, and residences, as well as new stores. The project is already generating four times the tax revenues that the old mall did.

Dunham-Jones and Williamson estimate that there as many as 650 mall retrofits in some phase of development across the country. From megachurches to indoor paintball parks, former malls and retail spaces are being converted to all manner of uses that better reflect the way we live.”

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.

Urbanism Summit Miami 2017

On February 21, 2017, a diverse collection of change-makers, influencers and forward thinkers gathered to discuss the future of cities, their makers and dwellers.  The purpose was to share actionable ideas across disciplines in new urbanism and place making, and spark a movement of collaboration among new urbanism practitioners, investors, startups, policy makers and community.

Tachieva of DPZ, Cooper Copetas, architectural designer and George Cuevas, founder of CollabMiami, teamed up for a panel discussion on how to create co-working space in the context of suburbia that can support small and independent businesses.

Learn more here:

http://urbanismsummit.com/

https://www.facebook.com/events/542068492657980/

Roundtable: Sustainability in the Urban Context – Is urbanism the key to a sustainable future?

For more than two decades the work of our firm, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ), has gained renown as a counter-proposal to suburban sprawl. While recognized for an emphasis on place making and for outperforming conventional suburbia, DPZ’s urbanism is less known for advancing the principles and techniques of sustainable planning. Beginning with Seaside in the early ’80s, DPZ employed green practices long before they were required by legislation or were fashionable in the media, including light infrastructure and innovative storm water-management. More complex environmental projects eventually followed – regional plans, urban infill and suburban redevelopments.