Mall Retrofits and the Experiential Economy

On July 13th, LAI Atlanta Chapter Board Member Bill De St. Aubin, CEO of Sizemore Group, gave a guest lecture as part of a seminar at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in order to present and discuss his most recent research on the experiential economy. The seminar, titled “Urban Retail: Essential Planning, Design, & Management Practices,” was comprised of senior executives and accomplished entrepreneurs in real estate or related industries in the Executive Education program.

Graduate School of Design group photo

Bill’s lecture, along with corresponding white paper, “Mall Retrofits and the Experiential Economy,” provides a sober outlook on the traditional regional mall and retail center. The paper describes the pressure traditional suburban shopping malls are experiencing in staying competitive against the current trends towards urbanization and new experience-focused urban shopping destinations.

In order to confront and overcome these obstacles, Bill advises, these malls need to create connected engagement for their customers. With entertainment, education, aesthetic, and a sense of escape, an interactive mall visit will engage customers in an immersive and participatory experience destined to create a consistent customer base who returns again and again. In addition, many malls will need to be repurposed in a way that enhances the urban experience with block size reduction, green space, and mixed-use development.

Community feedback and input is essential for successfully executing a retrofit project that achieves these ambitions. As the white paper outlines, “when we bring clients along for the journey, and our planners and designers are fully immersed in the community, the final product is superior…Through interactive and immersive activities, we bond with our clients, and thus get better, stronger inputs into the design and planning process.” Bill stressed this strong focus on community buy-in has been successful in the several mall retrofit projects Sizemore Group has been involved in and that this community-centered approach should be included in any such projects.

The remainder of the paper highlights key case studies of successful Sizemore Group projects that leveraged this approach in the past so as to provide lessons that the executive students can use in their own projects and real estate portfolios.

Download the Mall Retrofits and the Experiential Economy white paper.

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Blog post copy provided by the Sizemore Group.