Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lifestyle Centers...

As indoor shopping malls became less popular in the last two decades, the open-air lifestyle center (sometimes with a vertical mixture of uses) stepped into the void as an alternative for land developers.

They didn't prove to be the silver bullet though that some predicted. 

This story for Retail Traffic discusses why:

Lifestyle centers, as a concept, rose and fell spectacularly right along with the industry’s boom and bust.

That’s left backers of such properties going back to the drawing board and reimagining what lifestyle centers can be. These new approaches at times seem to redefine the concept itself. Whether or not to include anchors, whether to incorporate of non-retail uses and rethinking tenanting strategies are just some of the questions developers are wrestling with.

Developers are even trying to be more careful about how they use the term. During the boom years, the “lifestyle center” name got abused and stretched beyond all meaning, says Josh Poag, president of Poag & McEwen in Memphis, Tenn., which helped pioneer the concept. “Anything with a Starbucks in it was considered a lifestyle center,” he says. As a result, the label “jumped the shark” and “people were using it for anything and everything.”

If lifestyle centers are to succeed going forward, Poag and others argue that to qualify for the name, they should boast open-air environs and primarily upscale retailers. And while the first lifestyle centers eschewed anchors and included only inline retail, developers feel the mix going forward may be a bit more varied.

What I've yet to see research on is whether the existence of a residential component (like this one) to the lifestyle center has helped keep viability up since it embeds an audience in addition to those who travel to the center.  My hunch is that is the it does because, if someone lives at the lifestyle center, their likelihood of shopping there likely goes up.  The big question is whether the cost of adding the residential product offsets the financial benefit of the built in audience.

Chad Emerson

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It's a really fascinating issue in part because almost anyone can observe the effects of this trend in their community. My student Christy Culver posted on our class site about an article about the somewhat-related (if slightly less upscale) issue with strip malls, from The Economist:

This article is a short observation of how strip malls in the suburbs were once bustling with business, but over the past years have become abandoned due to overbuilding. Retailers are looking for short-term occupants to fill space and revenue.

Posted by: Matt Festa | Apr 7, 2011 10:17:19 AM