Repurposing Retail Centers: Profiles in Adaptation, Repositioning and Redevelopment

By: Jason Beske, AICP

Release Date: December 2019

The declining prospects of North America’s shopping malls have been the subject of significant media attention, industry concern and public interest. Faced with competition from e-commerce and shifting consumer preferences for other retail formats and experiences, hundreds of traditional shopping malls have closed in recent decades, with many more closures expected in the coming years. The NAIOP Research Foundation commissioned this report to examine how developers are transforming struggling or closed malls into properties that fit within current market conditions and serve the needs of their surrounding communities.

Once able to attract consumers by offering a range of retail options in a single location, traditional malls have struggled to compete with other retail formats in recent years. Many anchor stores and smaller mall-based retailers have gone out of business due to competition from online and budget retailers. Although certain upscale malls located in dense and growing metropolitan areas continue to attract customers, Class B and C retail centers have struggled to remain open.

While many of these properties may no longer support a traditional mall, they are often strong candidates for redevelopment. This report examines how developers have revitalized properties by adding new uses, amenities and services. Individual profiles describe how developers repositioned or redeveloped obsolete malls using a variety of approaches. Repositioning or transforming a mall presents unique challenges and opportunities. An analysis of this report’s case studies reveals several key findings that will be useful for developers and communities as they consider how best to reposition these sites:

  • Successfully repositioning or redeveloping a mall often requires that developers introduce new uses to the property.
  • When adding new uses to an existing building, it often makes sense to consolidate the remaining retail space to improve sales and visitor convenience.
  • A mall’s location and layout can make it a good candidate for redevelopment.
  • Working closely with local officials and members of the community is usually critical to a project’s success.
  • A successful mall redevelopment project often provides a community with significant economic and social benefits.

Both the decline of traditional malls and their successful redevelopment demonstrate that properties must meet current economic and social needs to thrive. This report should instill optimism in landowners, developers and community leaders that struggling malls can have a promising second act.

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