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Mall Survival Guide: Demalling, Adaptive Use and the Mall of Tomorrow
It’s a problem retailers have been up against for years – as technology continues to influence how and when we shop, traditional brick and mortar stores must work harder to bring in customers. This truism is especially real for many of the mall clients we’ve worked with over the years. Retailers aren’t just competing with customers who prefer shopping from their computers, but digital-savvy retailers who connect and sell directly through social media and email. Add to that limited store options and food court-style eating, and it becomes clear that the mall of yesterday is no longer sustainable.
The “Demalling” Trend
We believe there is great potential in these old malls. They just need help reaching it. No longer restricted to a single use, malls of all kinds are being transformed into experience-based destinations. For consumers, experience is essential. Malls that flow between indoor and outdoor spaces often encourage visitors to do more than just shop. Whether it’s a movie theater, high-end restaurant, exercise studio, specialty grocer, concert space, offices or even housing structures, malls that want to thrive need to create opportunities, outside of shopping, that bring visitors to their doors. This whole process is often referred to as “demalling.” For those who don’t know, demalling process of taking a traditional mall and making it a more experienced-based, open-air destination. The goal is to increase profitability by designing a space that shoppers want to visit. Open-air locations tend to feel more convenient, relaxing and modern to consumers.
Our experience shows us that there’s not a “one-size-fits-all” solution for how to rethink a mall – whether existing or new. What we have found is that keeping consumers at the forefront of our design has helped shaped decisions as more and more malls go through this reinvention.
Mt. Shasta Mall
Mt. Shasta Mall is an existing traditional-style indoor mall with “big box” anchors located at the intersection of three major freeways. Its location makes it highly visible and easily accessibly – a perfect combination to support a demalling effort.
An important part of the demalling effort included repurposing one anchor space to support a mix of smaller tenants including restaurants, entertainment and lifestyle. The new mix of tenants face outward to the community instead. The design team also reconfigured a large portion of the site into a new 12,000 square foot outparcel building supporting a mix of retail and restaurant tenants. This new building led to additional opportunities for mall signage and serves as an iconic brand element for the mall to help improve the overall customer experience.
Adaptive Reuse and the Malls of Tomorrow
Malls come in all shapes and sizes. If traditional indoor-style malls are common, then strip malls are a near everyday occurrence. We’ve worked with a number of developments to revitalize these existing retail centers into vibrant locations that attract shoppers.
As we look to the malls of tomorrow, the trends of demalling and adaptive reuse are coming into play in big ways. The RedStone retail center is a prime example of this. With large open spaces, focus on walkability, and a broad mix of retail and entertainment venues, this project offers a good glimpse to the future of shopping.
Dilworth Gardens Shopping Center – Adaptive Use
Charlotte, North Carolina
Built in the typical red brick and single height style of the mid-1980s, Dilworth Gardens felt increasingly outdated as more city-dwellers moved-in and modern retail spaces started springing up.
Working on a constrained budget, our team worked to create a new look that utilized the existing brick features. New tower elements lend interest to the single-height structure. Fresh, contemporary colors help modernize the red brick façade. With new structural elements occurring in front of the existing building, tenants would be able to maintain normal business hours during construction.
To support a more vibrant live-work-play feel, landscaping between the building and parking lot would be converted into outdoor seating areas. By creating more user-friendly moments, the revitalized center would become a destination for Dilworth residents
King’s Square Shopping Center – Adaptive Reuse
Charlotte, North Carolina
Small and unimpressive, King’s Square was the epitome of a traditional suburban strip mall. However, given its prime location, MPV Properties saw potential in the small lot and reached out to Progressive AE for design solutions that could improve the mall’s look and help prepare it for the needs of higher-end tenants.
To help keep businesses open during construction, design elements were applied to the existing structure. Two prominent towers add a touch of visual interest and work to break up the old uniform look. Previously sporting an all brown color palette, the design team updated the building’s exterior using a modern grey color with white and wood accents. To make room for a tenant with larger space needs, two store spaces were combined to turn the plaza from seven to six stores. By extending the building overhang outward, tenants now have additional outdoor space that can be used for seating, adding to the mall’s live-work-play lifestyle feel.
The renovation helped attract two new high-end tenants to the mall – Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, a fast-casual restaurant, and CycleBar, a premier indoor cycling studio. Existing tenants iColor Nails, Subway and Emperor Chinese Restaurant continued their relationship following the updates. The improvements also led to an increased rental rate per square foot.
RedStone Retail Center – Mall of Tomorrow
Indian Land, South Carolina
RedStone is a new retail center that will bring much-needed entertainment and shopping options to South Carolina’s up-and-coming Indian Land area. Located a short walk from marketing giant Red Ventures’ corporate campus, RedStone will be a natural extension of Red Ventures’ dynamic space.
Featuring an open-air, town center concept where visitors move between indoor and outdoor space, RedStone will support a vibrant work-live-play aesthetic. The 14-screen Stone Theatres Cineplex anchors the complex, which will also include a wide range of shops and restaurants. With spaces for anchors, junior anchors, shop space and out parcels, the center will meet a variety of needs.
Adding to the work-live-play feel, the center will feature a large green space, wrapped on all sides by retail and connected by a walkway to the cinema. From weekend farmer’s markets to outdoor concerts, the open space will serve as another opportunity for events and experiences that entice visitors to RedStone.