The hybridization of shopping center formats continues. Among the latest examples of the concept creep strip malls that shed their cookie-cutter past to create destination-oriented flavor of a town center.

The experiments include City Park, a development in Lincolnshire, Ill. Although the 75,000-square-foot project approximates the footprint of a single-building strip mall, it is designed so that storefronts have the appearance of freestanding buldings, like a town center, and it includes several entertainment and restaurant tenants. The result is to blur the line between the functional, everyday strip mall and a regional retail center.

Why this new hybrid? The community of Lincolnshire had trouble attracting retailers because it's located between two regional malls, General Growth Properties' Northbrook Court and Westfield Shoppingtown Hawthorn, says Scott Greenberg, president of Environmental Community Development (ECD), the developer of City Park. But the numbers convinced the local developer that the area was ripe for retail.

“We had 10 million square feet of office space within five miles of our development, and we had another 225,000 people with an average household income of $150,000 a year,” he says.

ECD first tested the market by developing pad sites for two restaurants, Wildfire and Big Bowl, and a 90,000-square-foot, 20-screen Regal Cinema. When that worked, it hired Aria Group Architects to design the two-story, 75,000-square-foot retail center, which includes an outdoor play area where the owner stages a light show at nighttime.

City Park's tenants include several restaurants, such as franchise Champps Americana and wine geek haven Bin 36, as well as a Kinko's branch, local clothing boutiques, office spaces and a glow-in-the-dark indoor putting green. “It wouldn't have been easy to attract anybody to this area,” Greenberg explains, without a more upscale format.

Of course, the decision to spice up the strip didn't come cheap. “A traditional strip shopping center probably costs $80 a square foot in this area,” observes Greenberg. “To do what we've done here costs double.” It has also paid off: Since opening last year, City Park's sales range between $500 and $1,000 per square foot, according to ECD — which, not coincidentally, describes itself as a build-and-hold developer.

The City Park concept won't be replicated everywhere. ECD was competing for market share against two nearby regional malls, Greenberg says, which is why the developer opted for entertainment-oriented tenants instead of the supermarket chains that anchor so many other strip centers.

But what to call this new type of strip center? Among the monikers suggested to us: “linear lifestyle” and “hyper strip.”

Contact us at bkarlin@primediabusiness.com to share your thoughts on this trend and to recommend a name.