The mall of the future is a unique response of the built environment to the community or region it serves. Where a mall anchor used to be big box retailers among several smaller shops, in the mall of the future, a curated collection of retail, dining and entertainment serves as the anchor for a larger mixed-use district where people live, work and play.
The state of the retail industry and the future of mall developments has been on everyone’s lips from developers and architects to consumers. As a firm specializing in retail development, we have daily conversations about that lingering question: “What’s next for the mall?”
Below, are a few ideas and concepts we speak to our clients about when addressing their individual design needs:
Mall of the Future
The mall of the future is a unique response of the built environment to the community or region it serves. Where a mall anchor used to be big box retailers among several smaller shops, in the mall of the future, a curated collection of retail, dining and entertainment serves as the anchor for a larger mixed-use district where people live, work and play. This anchor area becomes a destination for visiting shoppers and an amenity used daily by residents, hotel guests and office workers.
The mall of the future is a timeless urban experience. Innovative design strategies blur conventional boundaries between different uses, creating a cohesive and integrated human scale environment for visitors to explore and neighbors to make their own.
One property we look to is City Creek Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Passersby flow in and out of the property without necessarily noticing they have left the street and entered a defined shopping center. The property is simply a continuation of the urban experience. This level of seamless integration is an aspiration for any mall of the future.
Customer Experience and Placemaking
As social beings, humans have the innate desire to be with other people. While today’s customer shops through multiple channels, the mall of the future remains relevant by providing a space for people to gather and have tactile experiences. It’s a place where visitors can cross errands off their list, gather with friends for a meal and have a unique experience. It’s a place that taps into what draws people to both the destination and each other.
Placemaking tells the story of a place. Placemaking happens in the space between the buildings to encourage connectivity, create distinctive character and define the rhythm of life there. Pacific City in Huntington Beach, California is a place that connects with the ethos of the neighborhood. Pacific City’s courtyard is an extension of its surroundings, allowing visitors to wander straight from the beach into a space that embodies the surf lifestyle.
To us, the goal of placemaking is twofold: creating spaces that allow guests to find respite and feel at ease in the moments between activity; and perhaps the opposite, creating spaces where memorable moments of activity occur.
Future of Vehicles
The future of vehicles is about mobility and convenience. Today, a visitor’s introduction to a retail center is through the parking garage. In the near future, the majority of visitors will arrive by ride shares and autonomous vehicles requiring the drop off area to be designed for increased capacity and efficiency. This also presents the opportunity to greatly enhance the guest experience from the moment of arrival.
Hotels, like the Aria in Las Vegas, serve as inspiration for the type of arrival that can be incorporated into mixed-use centers to elevate the experience.
The increase in rideshare and autonomous vehicle usage reduces the requirement for parking and also allows for more flexibility in parking distribution, so existing on-site garage structures can be repurposed.
The mall of the future demands a strong merchandising vision comprised of a smaller, more curated retail experience, complemented by a variety of other uses such as F&B, co-working space, wellness and entertainment choices. In addition, the infusion of civic uses adds a level of complexity that attract a wider audience.
Design strategies remove the boundaries between these different uses and events and programming can be used to further activate the environment and encourage people to flow freely and explore.
Retail should always be about change, about advice and testing, about emotion and creativity. Now that we, as consumers, have choices of making purchases anytime and anywhere, our expectations for the brick-and-mortar experience are higher. The experience must be worth our time and effort, with a clear value proposition for the expenditure of time and money.
Traditional big box anchors have struggled with excess square footage for some time. Aside from simply repurposing the box for other uses such as gyms, furniture galleries or co-working spaces, there is an opportunity to re-allocate excess square footage to uses that would help drive traffic and provide increased revenue on site. Breaking down typical REA / lease structure to allow for sub-leases and licensing agreements, paired with a revenue sharing model would provide the developer the option to bring in restaurants, entertainment and other uses that the anchor may not be set up to operate themselves. Anchors with successful omni-channel business could also use a portion of their box for inventory warehousing to reduce delivery time for online shoppers. Using prime real estate for warehousing may seem counter intuitive at first; however, when paired with a percentage revenue sharing model in exchange, could be a win for both sides.