America’s Shopping Centers Get A New Lease On Life

For decades, malls and shopping centers dominated the retail landscape. They were places where people could purchase goods, grab a bite to eat, and for teens, socialize on a Friday night. However, as more homes and businesses connected to the internet, foot traffic in malls declined. E-commerce has become the new standard; consumers and retailers alike are doing more and more of their business over the internet. And with social media’s ability to connect young people, malls no longer draw a social crowd.

Once thriving shopping centers are now veritable ghost towns, with department stores, retailers and big-box tenants closing up shop and leaving behind large, vacant spaces. To survive in this economic landscape, landlords must find creative ways of filling these spaces and generating revenue while balancing the needs and wants of the community. Adaptive reuse is helping many owners to lease their vacant spaces with a variety of new tenants.

Adaptive reuse refers to the repurposing of a space or facility for a function other than which it was originally designed. For malls, this process usually begins by dividing one large space into several smaller—yet intentional–areas. For example, an empty anchor space could be divided into multiple spaces, with the front end serving as store fronts while the back end acts as a distribution center. Class C and D malls can maintain their sustainability by redesigning their vacant spaces to attract office, medical, educational, entertainment, food service, community center or banking tenants—thus creating a destination for experiences.

America’s oldest shopping mall, the Arcade Providence located in Providence, Rhode Island, was built 189 years ago, but recently underwent a major transformation. The three-story building features classical Greek architecture: columns, stone walls, and a large central atrium lit by skylights. Previously, it contained shops on all three levels. The mall has been renovated to accommodate 48 micro-apartments ranging from 225 to 775 square feet. The lower level hosts a variety of businesses, including boutique shops, restaurants, a coffee shop, and a hair salon.[1] Adaptive reuse has saved this historical piece of architecture and allows it to continue serving the community.

Similarly, after a big-box retailer vacated the Ellisville Square shopping center in Ellisville, MO, and left the area suffering from reduced foot traffic, Brixmor Property Group commissioned Woolpert to redevelop the area. Woolpert’s solution was threefold: divide the large anchor site into three smaller anchor stores, refresh the existing aesthetics and update the existing infrastructure to support the new usage. The result was a successful revitalization of the shopping center which has become a popular local destination.[2]

Adaptive reuse give landlords opportunities to give their retail space a new lease on life. In addition, it can save clients’ money and revitalize a community in a creative and unique manner. To learn more about this service contact the professionals at