New Tenants or New Concept for Lakeview Square Mall?
It's plainly clear: The retail landscape is changing. For some, at least. We know who they are: Macy's, JCPenney, Sears, KMart.
So what is the answer? Do economic development and retail leaders focus on new tenants for the old mall concept? Or do we attempt to re-invent the mall. These are some of the questions swirling around Lakeview Square Mall in Battle Creek.
There are examples - fairly recent ones - of both.
Kalamazoo's Maple Hill Mall was converted several years ago from a larger, indoor walking mall (like Lakeview Square) to a drive-up strip mall with bigger, regional or national retailers.
A study of what to do with the dying Maple Hill space revealed a trend away from traditional indoor malls to drive-up strips. Developers chose, perhaps, the extreme choice: Knock down a good portion of the square footage and create a strip with retailers once commitments were achieved. Today, Target anchors one end, with Value City Furniture at the other. In between, Hobby Lobby, PetSmart and Office Max help round out the space.
In this case, the mall concept was partially re-invented. In Dearborn, outside Detroit, Fairlane Town Center - one of Michigan's largest malls, once bustling with shoppers and big anchors like Sears, JCPenney and Macy's - now faces potential challenges with those retails all teetering on the edge of oblivion. Fairlane's Lord and Taylor space, empty for years, was just retrofitted with Ford Motor Company office space. Now that is a new concept for a mall: Office space.
Question is, if those other anchors eventually pull out of bigger malls like Fairlane, will Ford or other business concerns continue the transformation?
A vast space closed since 2006, the Dearborn Lord and Taylor example may be extreme - an inactive retail space that happens to be on land surrounded by a large company with the means of Ford Motor Company - which might be difficult to replicate in Battle Creek. But, it is definitely an example of non-traditional thinking we might need here in order to save Lakeview Square.
Coming up on Friday's (March 31, 2017) Richard Piet Show, we'll speak with the presenter who will visit Lakeview Square on April 11, touting his company's successes in giving malls new life - with pop-up, kiosk and other short-term retail outlets on mall property.
What do you think Lakeview Square Mall's future is? More of the same, indoor retail with new tenants? Or a new idea - be it a strip mall, partial office or other professional space? Would you be willing to shop there instead of shopping from your couch on Amazon?