The Mall of the Future, an Rx for New Life

Mall of the Future at ULI from CallisonRTKL on Vimeo.
Following the release of Mall of the Future, an ongoing, in-depth research project aimed at predicting where the shopping mall and the retail experience are heading in the future, the team at CallisonRTKL applied the learning to a specific challenge: how do you resuscitate an existing dead (or nearly dead) mall?  Knowing what we know now, how might an existing mall be re-invented or re-purposed into something that can take advantage of location or market attributes?

There are really two types of malls in the U.S. today—and only one of which remains dynamic and successful. But not all malls are struggling to thrive—not by a long shot. The successful malls are in the right location and are offering a unique and varied experience to their shoppers. In our eyes, these shopping centers will need to continue to evolve in the same way they have done in the past, with a goal of retaining the interest of their shoppers and offering their community a place to gather and live.

The other type of mall isn’t so successful. In fact, one in 60 malls in the U.S. are on the brink of closure, according to Green Street Advisors. These malls have a few things working against them, and many are not the result of poor planning or design—though some certainly are. We find that they’re often the byproduct of too much nearby competition, a poor location, a lack of community connectivity and a failure to change with the modern shopper. The reality is that the evolution of these malls will very likely lead to the sites becoming something else altogether.

Our team decided to take on the second category of malls with an intent to better understand the best way forward for the tired and perhaps dying malls in our own community, starting with five sites in Dallas, Texas. We gathered five design teams of all levels and backgrounds, and they were each given a site to study. There were no rules about the form that site had to take, only that the team should try to imagine its highest and best use.

We shared some of the designs and key insights at the Urban Land Institute’s Fall Meeting and tapped into the knowledge and experience of national mixed-use and retail developers for their insight and feedback.

The resulting conversation has led to greater innovation and greater creativity in our thinking as a firm. Rather than seeing an aging mall population sliding into obsolescence, we see an opportunity to regenerate communities, return to a thriving natural landscape and create a place that responds to the needs of those it serves.

Mall of the Future – Dallas-Fort Worth from CallisonRTKL on Vimeo.

Jeff Gunning

Jeff Gunning

Jeff Gunning has spent the entirety of his professional career with the firm, beginning with RTKL in 1984. He now leads CallisonRTKL’s commercial practice for North America, covering retail, hospitality, residential and commercial office. Previously, he served as leader of the retail/entertainment sector beginning in 1998. His work since then, coupled with the CallisonRTKL merger, has helped solidify the firm’s position as the world’s leading retail design practice for both shopping center and store design. His work has shaped the firm’s holistic approach to large, mixed-use developments that bring retail, entertainment, sport, residential, office, hotel and other uses into synergistic, experiential places that resonate with communities and stand the test of time. His projects have been instrumental in CallisonRTKL’s expansion into Europe, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. Jeff is also a frequent speaker and contributor at ICSC, ULI, AIA and other industry conferences.