Over the last year we’ve heard story after story report on the closing of large anchor retailers such as Macy’s, Sears, and J.C. Penney and how the trend might result in another wave of regional mall closures. Analysts from across the board are predicting hundreds more shopping malls in the US to shut down as a result of being unable to find enough retailers to replace ones that have gone, leaving millions of square feet of developed but vacant commercial space.
Community engagement throughout the planning process is also key and although many mall developers today are not known for such outreach work, it is important they begin to take on this responsibility with the help of local non-profits because community needs are often nuanced. Conversations with local stakeholders may not only encourage public buy-in but also bring to light different kinds of needs that may not necessarily come up in strict market analyses, including social service, healthcare, public space needs, and architectural preferences. Sometimes, “communities may not be ready to embrace the densities and design standards required to accomplish successful mixed use neighborhoods”, according to Robert Gibbs a retail planning expert, so the open dialogue between mall owner/ developer and the local community can serve to build an understanding around such concerns and guide any concessions that need to be made.