By George Anderson
There are still plenty of the giant indoor malls scattered around the U.S. landscape, but the current trend in large retail development is open-air lifestyle centers.
A report by The Associated Press said that many current malls are undergoing changes to make them more pedestrian friendly. For some, such as the Huntington Beach (CA) Shopping Center, that has meant tearing down the existing structure and replacing it with something completely new.
In most cases, however, facility operators and developers have looked to tweak existing facilities with improvements such as outdoor streetscapes leading to existing entrances and destination points such as restaurants and cinemas inside the mall.
The Westfield Group recently announced it was acquiring 15 stores from Federated and it plans to demolish some and replace them with outdoor-facing storefronts and entry plazas.
“We’re having great fun with it,” said Kenneth Wong, president of Westfield’s U.S. division, “and we’re having great success with it.”
While lifestyle centers are growing in popularity even in geographic regions with colder climates, they still represent a relatively small percentage of square footage in mall facilities.
According to CoStar Group Inc., there will be over 100 lifestyle centers operating by the end of this year compared to 1,077 enclosed malls. Still, enclosed mall construction has slowed dramatically from 387 new facilities built during the 1970s to just 47 since 2000.
General Growth Properties CEO John Bucksbaum said his company recently opened an entrance to the company’s Alderwood Mall while creating an outdoor lifestyle plaza with restaurants and shops.
The times, said Mr. Bucksbaum, require change. “We shouldn’t be doing the same look architecturally or otherwise that we did 20 years ago, let alone 10 or even five years ago,” he said.
Moderator’s Comment: What recent changes to mall construction or other aspects of the business do you find most intriguing? How do you see malls evolving
in the future? – George Anderson – Moderator