Q: Owners are slowing the pace of new development and pushing resources into redevelopment. What trends in redevelopment are you tracking and how is it affecting design?
MVE & Partners
Keith Ray, Principal: We're seeing value-added intensification, which means multiple uses on site, such as combining hotels with medical offices and residential over the retail. These types of projects are in the early stages of development. There are many challenges ahead to make these special places that also prosper. We can crack the code to successful development, but in this market it takes superlative insights and work on each project.
Bob Tindall, Chairman: Retail centers are amazingly flexible and can be repositioned to adapt. Most are well positioned in terms of traffic flow and location. We think centers will find new ways to respond to their communities in a variety of ways, from adding more service tenants and food and beverage to looking beyond retail uses for tenants such as schools, libraries and daycare.
Bruce A. Barteldt, Jr., National Retail Studio Principal: Both remodeling of existing buildings (for the same use) and adaptive reuse of buildings (of a former different use) have increased — and that makes a lot of sense. If retailers stop evolving with customers and become stale, then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy that their sales will further plummet. Therefore, retailers are turning their attention (in some cases, completely) toward refreshing the units they already have, sometimes in combination with shuttering underperforming units to trim operating costs and help subsidize their refresh-for-less programs. Likewise, developers who see the longer term now are seizing the opportunity to pick up underperforming (and sometimes abandoned) properties and adaptively reposition them for new commercial use. When possible, developers can see benefits through tax credits, sustainability brownfield points and the marketing panache that often accompanies projects that have historic significance. The approach isn't a bargain, but it is an excellent alternative if handled deftly.
Fred L. Keith, President: Redevelopment has always been harder to do than new development. It's harder to define the risk, harder to meet expected returns and often harder to build. The tight financing market has somewhat evened the playing field by creating higher hurdles for developers of new projects. Redevelopment has become the only game in town for some developers while they wait for more favorable economic conditions to return. As designers we must be more creative than ever.
FRCH Design Worldwide
Y. E. Smith, Vice President and Managing Creative Director, Architecture: Somewhere along the way, enclosed malls lost touch with the consumer and the very nature of what influenced its form: Main Street. Many developments have lost or missed the diversity and richness that Main Street has. Owners are now infusing more fun and diversity with people- watching and community-centric events and land uses.
Properties are getting updated too — in particular, new interior finishes in the common areas. This is to enhance the experience and increase the desire to linger. Improving existing developments is relatively economical when compared to new construction and shoppers appreciate it.
Leo V. Mendez, Director of Retail Design: Redevelopment, especially within enclosed regional malls, means implementing a variety of strategies. The locations of these centers are still on some of the best real estate. With the reduction of anchors, the introduction of lifestyle, outwardly-faced retailers, specialty grocers, theaters, restaurant districts and mixed-use office residential rental properties are being looked at to further stimulate and enhance the activity and value within these properties. The rules have become even more diverse in the leasing strategies as the need to capture the critical mass has influenced such strategies.
Scott Hall, Senior Associate and Senior Designer: De-malling enclosed shopping centers has become an appropriate development option to revitalize properties that have exceeded their useful life. Effectively implemented, these projects can reshape their relationship to the community and engage their adjacent neighborhoods in an invigorating way. Another development focus is reimaging older properties with newer tenants to revivify the customer's expectations.
Perkowitz + Ruth
Sy Perkowitz, President and CEO: One of the trends that we are seeing is the renewed interest in redevelopment and revitalization efforts. Instead of focusing on ground-up developments in suburban locations, we are seeing a great interest in urban in-fill sites and high-density retail and mixed-use environments. It is another example of sustainable development in which a project can reinvent itself by adopting urban design principals, yet remain competitive in the marketplace.
Brad J. Nelsen, President: Active long-term owners of retail developments now find themselves with great opportunities in their older properties to redevelop and increase densities on what may have been a traditional suburban retail model, and today, progressive municipalities that understand mixed-use are often creating incentives to redevelop these older projects. The key is understanding how to add density to existing developments in a cost-effective manner that adds value without disrupting a successful tenant base.
Richard Wilden, Senior Design Architect: Enclosed malls are being reinvented to maintain relevance with the biggest trend being the addition of an open-air components featuring full-service restaurants and public spaces. Malls not taking on this type of development may quickly find other outdoor centers stealing their tenants. Some retailers now only want to appear in lifestyle-type settings, and small expansions on the face of enclosed malls are being added to allow for these sought-after tenants.
Brian Arial, Managing Principal: We're seeing a shift toward repositioning existing retail centers instead of ground-up projects. By being creative without spending a lot of money, we bring life back to a center that had a high vacancy rate. Clients come to us with tighter construction budgets and demanding tenants, which only challenges our design team to meet the development goals. Computer technology shows a “before and after” of what a project will actually look like before it is ever built.
Dorsky Hodgson Parrish Yue
Kevin Zak, Partner: There is an increasing interest in exploring alternatives that improve the development asset in ways that weren't considered in the past. Our energy is centered on generating the appropriate design response for our clients based upon the changing market conditions. We take a macroscopic approach to sustainability, creating design solutions that provide long-term benefits to the existing development.
Richard Foy, Co-Chairman: The U.S. has double the retail square footage per person than Europe. It is simply smarter to recycle old centers with good locations. The numbers are generally far more favorable to remodel than start over. While most centers emulate one another, smart developers attempt to distinguish each property by reflecting its social, cultural and regional values. This helps gain allegiance and patronage by affirming and reflecting the lifestyles of their communities.
Another major design opportunity is in recognizing and acknowledging the emergence of women. They are the influencers and determinants in 95 percent of all consumer purchases. Ask at every juncture what women would appreciate. Only then will it be well designed.
Rich Burns, Principal: We are finding that many developers are opting to focus on urban revitalization projects and brownfield reclamation projects. For existing projects, developers are focusing on repositioning their existing centers, updating the image and intensifying public open space. Consolidating and intensifying uses within existing centers supports smart growth.
Jeff Gill, Vice President and Principal: Quite often, existing buildings and sites limit flexibility in the design process. In these cases one needs to step back and consider what will catch the attention of the passerby. It may be unaffordable to do a complete remodel. Owners and designers should then consider enhancements to the site as a major emphasis within the remodel budget, with limited dollars spent on the buildings. (New outdoor gathering areas, upgraded signage, awnings and new materials can highlight existing structure instead of doing a complete renovation). Design considerations that are thought provoking or responsive to the community can have a huge impact on the success of an existing center.
O'Brien & Associates
Jack O'Brien, President and CEO: Retailers are looking for the smallest store footprint possible to decrease their operating costs, but they want to merchandise the same amount of product. So with redevelopment projects, we are having to be very efficient with our space planning by minimizing the amount of dead space that can't be used.
Rob Holt, Principal: The current economy has found retail developers more focused on improving their existing assets to maximize returns rather than on investing in new buildings. While there are difficulties presented by the economy, redevelopment provides opportunities to reposition and expand an existing center to better serve its market, to attract upscale tenants and to increase sales. The current energy prices are also accelerating the use of green design in redevelopment. In doing so, more and more developers are discovering the gold in going green.
Greg Tysowski, Vice President of Design: Redevelopment today is tied to maximizing existing underutilized areas into income- producing opportunities at the same time improving tenant mix, amenities and features demanded by the public. Another key to redevelopment is providing new interest by opening up and developing currently inward-focused, faceless projects outward to greet and connect with the public. The addition of windowed shop fronts and restaurants in conjunction with community-oriented outdoor space provides visual excitement and upgrades a property's identity.