Retail Marketing|Thought Leadership|Trends|

Multifaceted developments serve consumers with community activations, and elevated entertainment and dining options, and boost foot traffic while improving land efficiency.

The Great Outdoors was the ‘in thing’ well before the demise of malls and the COVID-19 pandemic, of course, but those events have helped add more momentum to a fit, fresh real estate trend. Consumers increasingly value health and wellness and retail places that not only provide those types of products and services, but also package it all in a visually appealing, walkable and environmentally sound location. They find those things at open-air lifestyle centers.

RE Business Online defined the pedestrian-friendly, town center-like developments as “intentionally designed spaces that are set against beautiful landscapes and house high-quality dining, retail, entertainment, health and wellness uses.” A breath of fresh air literally and figuratively, open-air lifestyle centers have capitalized on the growing number of people prioritizing wellness amenities and services — 4 out of 5 surveyed intend to maintain or increase spending in the retail segment — and on the mall redevelopment trend, while thriving in the warm climate Sun Belt states from California to the Carolinas.

From a developer and owner standpoint, the retail center type lends itself to improved land use efficiency — including mixed-use with its ‘built-in’ consumer populations — a sustainable focus that not only achieves operational savings, but will only grow in importance with younger generations known for demonstrating their values through their spending habits. The walkable, inviting atmosphere at such shopping centers also encourages foot traffic and expands shoppers’ time and money on site. 

Tanger Outlets continues to transform the shopping experience across its 36 lifestyle centers in the U.S. and Canada. An infinitee client for over 20 years, the operator of outdoor outlet centers is rolling out a refreshed visual identity dubbed “Open Air” across its portfolio. With a goal to reimagine shopper engagement, the elevated mix of offerings may include micro-breweries, gourmet groceries, golf simulators, electric car recharging stations, selfie concepts and even robotic dinosaurs.

In addition to that innovative mix of offerings and a refreshed visual identity, including a new logo, Tanger will expand on the programming that boosts the community hub appeal of its open-air lifestyle centers. From environmental activations to holiday programming, the community events and experiences, coupled with elevated entertainment options, create outstanding and meaningful connections for guests.

This open-air shift is happening everywhere. For example, the Chicago suburbs have lost 40% of its enclosed malls in the last 30 years and could have only five to eight remaining by the end of the decade, according to one projection. A classic example of moving on from the classic, old mall is the Fox Valley Mall conversion in Aurora, Ill., where a vacant Sears store and parking lot will become 304 luxury apartments, part of a mixed-use community with walkable connections to entertainment and shopping.

Whereas many mall department stores back then viewed restaurants and other uses as competitors for parking, now the focus is on cross-shopping with the rising tide of foot traffic lifting all business hopes. A principal of Mid-America Real Estate, which has tracked more than 5 million square feet of lifestyle space over the past decade, told Bisnow that lifestyle centers have never been stronger than in 2023, citing the creative engagement potential of outdoor activations for fitness classes, concert series, outdoor movies and more.

Grand Boulevard in Miramar Beach, Fla., not only offers the multifaceted appeal and resulting commercial commingling benefits of 765,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, Class A office space and three on-site hotels, but the mixed-use lifestyle center also drives greater consumer traffic with year-round happenings, including the 30a Songwriters Festival, ArtsQuest Fine Arts Festival and its signature event, the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival.

 “As creative, people-centric advocates who believe in endless possibilities and great ideas, the open-air center trend is right down our alley,” said Michael Rivera, infinitee’s creative director. “Building unique and compelling brands is what we do, but their activation, especially in cool outdoor environments such as Tanger’s and others, is really one of the best, most exciting things that we get to do.”


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