July 27, 2005

Another Open-Air Mall Expansion

While plans for the Natick Mall expansion are to build the kind of enclosed center popular half a century ago, with what appears to be quite a pedestrian-unfriendly exterior, trends in the rest of the country favor building open-air shopping centers that stress a pedestrian-friendly ambiance. The latest among numerous examples of such so-called lifestyle centers: Dayton, Ohio, where a 90,000-square-foot expansion at the Dayton Mall "will feature high-end restaurant and retail tenants in an open-air, pedestrian-friendly setting," according to GlobeSt.com.

Numerous other recent plans for shopping areas designed for walker-appeal are planned everywhere from Toledo to Colorado Springs, as CNN Money reported earlier this year.

Closer to MetroWest, a "pedestrian-friendly, architecturally upscale, open-air lifestyle center" has been proposed for 175 acres in Northboro, Commercial Property News notes. If this truly is the trend in retailing and more what 21st century consumers want -- and "the number of lifestyle centers has quickly accelerated, from just 30 in 2002 to 120 at the end of 2004. Between 10 to 20 new centers are slated to open each year for the next two years. By contrast, only eight new regional malls are expected to open by 2006, according to ICSC," CNN Money says -- one wonders if conventional malls like Natick's are the best tactic to attract upscale consumers.

Many consumers are getting tired of the sterile, soul-less atmosphere of typical suburban malls, and crave walker-friendly streetscapes with a sense of place. Some developers realize this. Others don't.

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