Shopping malls are going to become what


Several media outlets declared traditional shopping malls dead when online shopping became popular. This is no different from the expectation that Kindle would replace printed books and Netflix would make movie theaters obsolete. Malls will remain popular because of convenience, community, and the pleasure of shopping. Our shopping malls will need to adapt to meet the modern consumer’s needs, compete with online stores and provide experiences. Despite popular belief, suburban areas will be OK with the thousands of empty shopping centers. Some shopping centers will be more valuable as a completely different use. However, many are viable in the long term if creatively reimagined and better integrated with surrounding communities.

Four strategies will help us reinvent our shopping centers, giving them a new look and offering unique experiences to our communities.

When we think about what to do with shopping malls in the future, it is clear that retail will still dominate. Things will look and feel different. The new mall requires a narrative that guides a careful choreography blending uses while maintaining retail as its core.

Reimagine anchors for the future

Shopping centers have brought fashion into the suburbs. The shopping centers gave teenagers and families a place to gather, eat, and buy all they needed in one location. Many of these big-box stores are no longer in business. Few department stores are still thriving, which is a testament to the ability of these retailers to reinvent themselves into experiential destinations. Owners and developers outside of these retail innovators are turning to entertainment venues and retailers as a way of attracting customers and are capitalizing on the dark department store space. Adding a thoughtful program offering experiential offerings, whether a single tenant or a rotating list, can bring life back to the malls and give people a reason to shop.

Return the community

Shopping malls of the past were characterized by their tendency to operate as islands. This was done deliberately, but it is ineffective in attracting a modern audience. Malls of the future will seamlessly integrate with their local communities. The mall will reflect the community’s values and culture while also meeting consumers’ needs. Retail, residential, hospitality, and other uses will be able to overlap in blended-use environments along with public green spaces. Retail will form the connecting tissue between these environments. However, there are other things offered. The area is designed as a local center, not a mall. It will be a place where residents can gather, buy goods, and access essential services.

Reviving the main street

To make these spaces successful, they cannot act as barriers, with their seas of parking and experiences only facing inward. In some cases and urban areas, the mall may be “de-malled.” This means that the buildings will be dismantled and turned inside out. The walls and roofs will be removed until a main street appears, allowing for pedestrian and limited vehicle traffic. This is more of a high street or town center. The parking structures that are now vacant will be converted into outdoor venues. The enclosed retail center will look completely different when it is finished.

Repurpose entirely

Existing shopping centers may need to be completely redesigned. Some shopping centers may change their focus from selling consumer goods to serving industries that use consumer products with fulfillment and distribution centers. Some will focus on healthcare or education campuses with a particular emphasis on life sciences, technology, or higher education. Today, shopping centers are strategically located near highways and transit lines. These are crucial to the success of any future mixed-use development. There are many opportunities for repositioning and evolving their structures and infrastructure.

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