Victor Gruen, an Austrian immigrant, conceived the concept of the town center in 1956. His idea was to create a largecommunity hub with apartments, offices, parks, libraries, and schools. While Gruen's concept was solid, most of the developments that followed his lead dropped the community and residential aspect, and focused efforts on the commercial side -- creating large indoor areas with a few anchor stores and many retail tenants.
Malls saw their success grow throughout the 1980s and 1990s, when they became a popular meeting spot for teens and the main place that families went to purchase apparel.
Today, with stiff competition from Amazon and other e-retailers, the familiar American mall is becoming a relic of the last few decades. The older malls are losing large, department store retailers such as Sears and J.C. Penney.
Towns across America are bidding farewell to their local malls, while a redevelopment is taking place -- the rebirth of the mall as an updated and multi-purpose town center. The redevelopment of malls, especially in suburban areas, allows developers and retailers to take advantage of new technology and new opportunities to create a more modern and experiential core space to attract consumers.
The new town centers are a vital part of suburban living, offering retail, restaurants, and fitness facilities along with libraries, grocery stores, medical facilities, and entertainment experiences. Developers understand that the new town centers require unique experiences in brick-and-mortar to compete with e-commerce. They also know that the key is to evolve with the market. And that is exactly what these new town centers are accomplishing.
One recent example from DC is the transformation of Springfield Mall to the Springfield Town Center. The updated retail design and venue boasts a new movie theatre, a library, an open courtyard area for kids to play, and selected retailers.
Another example is the retail construction of the old Hickory Hollow Mall in Antioch, Tennessee that was repackaged and reopened as the Global Mall at the Crossings, featuring a library, recreation center, plenty of select new retailers, a community college satellite location, and a practice rink for a local hockey team.
With the combination of pedestrian-oriented commercial and residential space and public gathering areas, town centers are renewing economic vitality in communities across the country.
Town centers are the new American malls. Are you ready to open a retail location in one?
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