The Strip Mall Revolution: 5 Ways CRE Is Breathing New Life Into Retail Centers


Much has been reported over the last decade about the uncertain future of shopping malls throughout the country. Board room discussions on whether to tear down or redevelop older centers or strip malls can bring the nostalgic type to tears. However, recent projects from coast to coast are breathing life into these commercial real estate properties.

For instance, the redevelopment of the Bloc in Los Angeles includes 400,000 square feet of retail space; a reconstructed, 708,000-square-foot, 32-story office building; a renovated Sheraton hotel; and new restaurant and entertainment tenants. (Source: NAIOP)

Here are five common threads being woven into the new fabric of the American mall.

  1. Open air. One of the most significant updates and prominent features of the strip mall revolution is raising the roof. In some cases, a roof might be eliminated to make way for open causeways. In other cases, roofs are transformed into glass structures or other elements of design that allow for more natural light and a sense of open space.
  2. Smaller footprints. The larger anchor stores of former generations are shrinking into less square footage footprints, a trend that seems to appeal to both customer and retailer. By decreasing the amount of square footage needed for retail, the updated shopping centers can allow for more space for people to socialize, walk along landscaped paths, and park in uncrowded areas.
  3. Right mix of retail and restaurants. People are changing their eating habits, according to a recent JLL study and updated malls with the right mix of retail and restaurants will appeal to newer generations of shoppers. Fast casual restaurants are replacing fast food on one end of the spectrum and formal dining on the other end of the spectrum. Healthier eating habits with emphasis on organic and superfoods will play into the mix of restaurants in redeveloped malls, as well as a diverse mix of other retailers and space, such as fitness centers, rock climbs, and more.
  4. Connection with community— According to Regency Centers, malls are being redeveloped with more connections to transit and the surrounding communities. As shoppers continue to look for convenience in their busy lives, accessibility to transit will continue to affect redevelopment of future malls located within the larger community.
  5. Experience. While not a new concept, socializing at malls has shifted into more of an experience. Not only have individual stores upped their game in terms of customer experience, but the mall itself now includes more areas for sitting in well-lit areas, with conveniences like cell-phone chargers, massage chairs, and other amenities to engage shoppers in the new experience of the new centers.