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Thread: Replacing mall anchors with big box stores??

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Replacing mall anchors with big box stores??

    In a dying mall, is it really a good idea to replace department stores with big box anchors? An old mall in Chicagoland, Randhurst Mall in Mt. Prospect, has tried this, but I think they have failed. The mall was one of the first (opened in the fifties) and the largest American indoor mall at the time it opened. It used to have 3 or 4 major department stores and is now only down to one (Carson Pirie Scott, I believe). In the 1980s or 1990s, Circuit City and Old Navy came and gave the mall a bit of a boost (both have since gone out of business here). Home Depot took out a chunk of now unneeded parking lot, as did Borders...both are doing well, I believe. And most recently, warehouse giant CostCo has taken out Marshall Field's. The inside of the mall also contains more service places than specialty stores. And the number has leveled off significantly. Much of the reasoning for the mall dying can be blamed on downtown redevelopment, oversaturation of the Northwest Suburbs, and an aging and more diverse population in the area. Is this really the right option. Do big box stores really help a deteriorating mall. Or should they just tear down the rest of the mall and make it a town center or something??

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    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    There have been a few general trends in our area:

    1) Densification of first and second generation suburban malls. Outlot / permineter development creating a street edge, greater orientation towards the external pedestrian environment, and development of parking decks.

    2) Replacement of older first-generation strip malls with singel big box users.

    3) Replacement of department stores in first-generation malls with several mid-sized stores - one that would typically be found in "lifestyle cetners".

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    I wrote an article about this about a year ago and interviewed several mall experts. The key seems to be to evaluate the market for the mall and position it appropriately. Some malls have succeeded with adding big boxes by positioning themselves as very service-oriented. The problem is that in an enclosed mall, it's not convenient to park and walk to the stores that you want. Some have tried opening up stores to the outside in a hybrid-type set-up, but then the inside of the mall suffers. People will come for the big box and never go past it to the rest of the stores.

    It comes down to having a market that is willing to shop there. If there are more convenient, more appealing shopping opportunities, people will take them. Traditional malls just aren't holding up well to today's shopper. Part of this is surely just a matter of style--the older malls seem, well, old.

    I'm curious to see what people who are in the trenches have to say about this, but this is what my experts told me.

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I worked at that Carson's when I was in college. Randhurst has some interesting problems. It is situated along busy streets, but serving largely a local population. It is not very accessible to a regional market. Randhurst has plenty of nearby competition. I wonder what the demographics are now. I suspect there has been some aging, and a larger number of ethnic minorities moving in. These trends would impact sales at traditional stores.

    Enclosed mall are not performing very well in many places. This is especially true of an aging center like Randhurst. Developers will typically look at properties like these as scrapes - knock it down and start over. The current trend is for more of an open air, urban street setting. While the upscale ones get attention, many of these projects are being done with typical big bix and mid box anchors, like Home Depot, Citcuit City, and Linen's 'n Things. It may be a bit early to decide if these are going to be viable over the long term, but many are being built.
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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    I worked at that Carson's when I was in college. Randhurst has some interesting problems. It is situated along busy streets, but serving largely a local population. It is not very accessible to a regional market. Randhurst has plenty of nearby competition. I wonder what the demographics are now. I suspect there has been some aging, and a larger number of ethnic minorities moving in. These trends would impact sales at traditional stores.

    Enclosed mall are not performing very well in many places. This is especially true of an aging center like Randhurst. Developers will typically look at properties like these as scrapes - knock it down and start over. The current trend is for more of an open air, urban street setting. While the upscale ones get attention, many of these projects are being done with typical big bix and mid box anchors, like Home Depot, Citcuit City, and Linen's 'n Things. It may be a bit early to decide if these are going to be viable over the long term, but many are being built.
    You are definitely right on the demographics. Also, it's surprising to see many stores shut down on the Route 12 big-box corridor in nearby Arlington Heights. I think a lot of customers have deserted Arlington Heights and Randhurst for the new Deer Park Town Center, near Palatine, as well as for the brand new lifestyle centers in my neck of the woods (Algonquin Commons, Geneva Commons). I've been to these lifestyle centers, and they function a lot better than indoor malls. You can just pull up to your favorite store and walk right in. Then you can stroll down the sidewalks if you wish to or you can drive to the next store. The dining choices are also superb.

    I think Randhurst should just start over. Keep the current big box tenants, but add some new upscale fashion stores to appeal to the empty nesters moving in to the fancy condos in the downtowns.

    Then again, many indoor malls are surviving. There's the mammoth Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, the fifth largest in the U.S. Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee is also maintaining its footing, despite nearby competition from two lifestyle centers, an outlet mall, and sprouting big box stores. Even Cherryvale Mall in economically hard hit Rockford has succeeding in improving its aesthetics and tenants to appeal to customers.
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