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Evolution of the Mall: Where Do We Go From Here?

Dec 19, 2019
3 min read
By: Shanae Vander Togt

We've talked about the history of the mall and what malls are today, but where will they be in the future? 

With the closure of many anchor and dynasty tenants, shopping malls have had to take a hard look at how they can continue to bring value to their properties. As a general manager quoted to the Chicago Tribune: “We’ve been faced with the challenge of having to reinvent retail.”

We’ve looked at the evolution of the shopping mall from a number of different angles. One thing is clear: change is coming, and the ones who jump on the transition will be the ones who survive. 

The initial wave of additional services and attractions to replace missing stores started with restaurants, then expanded to entertainment like movie theatres and bowling alleys. However, that was far from the limits of the imagination. Museums, art galleries and installations, tourist destinations, and more have started to pop up at retail venues across the world. 

Mixed-use buildings come in many shapes and sizes, and often combine three or more uses into one structure such as residential, hotel, retail, entertainment, and business. Mixed-use development is more common as high-density development becomes more needed than it has ever been before.

We’re also seeing an influx of outdoor additions to the properties. Simon Property Group, for instance, recently announced that they will be installing a 2 acre outdoor park at one of their properties in an effort to increase green space and invite the community in. 

Integrating mixed-use spaces like this into new neighbourhoods and developments helps to cement a community feel, and puts brands and stores in the heart of the neighbourhood, where the residents themselves are. This is not a new concept either. Historically, it was common for humans to pool their resources into one area (the market square, for example).

Certain parts of the world are starting to take cues from their international counterparts. A longtime staple in Europe and Asia, open-air shopping centres and shopping ‘area’ developments have been centers of activity for years. Properties in this style have now started popping up across North America as REITs continue to redevelop existing properties to add more value across their portfolios. 

Less is more now, and focusing on investing in their key properties and divesting the ones that don’t fit the need of their visitors is the norm.

From the same Chicago-area GM:

The larger trends in successful shopping centers point to having more destination activities, not just going to shop. So, go there to eat, go there for entertainment, go there for your yoga classes, your spin classes, go there to do your grocery shopping and to pick up grab-and-go meals.

Clearly, the sky’s the limit with how we are rethinking the shopping mall space. As we head into the new year, it will be interesting to see where, how, and how far these evolutions will go.