The Changing Face of Retail

July 9, 2019
Written by: Dana Kreis Glencer and Andrea Welburn, CREW Network Industry Research Committee
A rendering of the the Amazon fulfillment center where the abandoned Euclid Square Mall in Cleveland, Ohio once stood. Amazon paid more than $7 million for the mall and nearby buildings. 
Industry Brief - The Changing Face of Retail
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Industry Briefs provide thought leadership on industry topics with a global business focus—all in a one-page brief you can read in two minutes or less. Industry briefs are written by the CREW Network Industry Research Committee, which leads CREW Network's research agenda. The committee also produces white papers annually and a benchmark study every five years, delivering data and action items to advance women in commercial real estate and positively impact the industry. 


The evolution of retail real estate has been evident in our markets. Old malls have been repurposed into mixed-use developments with apartments, retail, hotel and office space. Even less typical tenants that were previously considered undesirable—grocery stores, movie theaters, fitness centers, medical clinics, yoga studios and massage spas—have become requirements for a successful mixed-use center, and landlords are finding that these tenants are attracting customers to their spaces.

One such location, City Center Bishop Ranch, part of a 585-acre mixed-use development in the California Bay Area, has separate entrances to each retailer and is reminiscent of a downtown city street with a community courtyard. City Center offers an Equinox gym, which anchors the center at one end and a high-end dine-in movie theatre and food center on the other. This development has a rooftop parking garage, which not only hides the parking but makes very efficient use of space. This development is an example of the blending of city and shopping, blurring the lines of where the city ends and the shopping center begins. 

Brookfield Place, an upscale mixed-use shopping and office complex in Lower Manhattan, also has an Equinox and other non-traditional tenants, such as a culinary education institute and an ice rink. This complex has 300,000 square feet of dining and luxury shopping (with retailers such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton), over 8 million square feet of office space and hosts free art shows through its unique in-house art program. 

Brookfield Place
Brookfield Place, also referred to as the World Financial Center, is a shopping center and office building complex that is the height of luxury shopping, dining and cultural arts in downtown Manhattan.

In many areas of the U.S., developers and companies have been creative, turning functionally obsolete malls into opportunities to support e-commerce. This can be very attractive to end users. Often, these blighted malls are located close to an interstate or other major thoroughfare, set in a population-dense area and situated on a large parcel of land with ample parking. The former North Randall Park Mall and Euclid Square in Cleveland, Ohio have been repurposed into Amazon fulfillment centers. One point of synergy for these sites is that former malls can fulfill the need for ample fulfillment employee parking. 

Euclid Square and North Randall Park Mall
Abandoned shopping malls in Ohio recently received a facelift. Euclid Square Mall (left) and North Randall Park Mall have both been repurposed into Amazon fulfillment centers. 

Many of today’s retail spaces now require the accommodation for ride share services such as Uber and Lyft. To meet this growing demand, areas are developing to accommodate pickup and drop-off areas for these services. Many communities are reducing the number of parking spaces required for new developments and encouraging residents to use public transit.

You will find a similar evolution in the retail environment in Canada as several Metro Vancouver shopping centers are currently either expanding and/or redeveloping. Despite the rise in e-commerce, shopping malls such as Park Royal, Oakridge Centre, Brentwood Town Centre, Lougheed Town Centre and others are redeveloping to refresh their looks, add square footage or build condominium towers on mall parking lots. Premium malls are investing in more amenities to prolong time spent by visitors and potential spenders.

Shape Properties and HOOP (Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan) are redeveloping a 28-acre site in Burnaby, referred to as “The Amazing Brentwood.” Up to 11 residential towers will be constructed on the site; some as high as the Trump Tower in downtown Vancouver at 600 feet. Brentwood, branded as a “leisure and entertainment destination for the region,” is being marketed as an experience, not just a shopping destination.

Oakridge Centre has been the shopping destination of Vancouver’s west side since the 1950s. The opening of the Canada Line in 2010 created an opportunity to re-envision the site as a new civic centre. The introduction of significantly more residential and office space, community amenities, a nine-acre public park and arts programming will transform this site from an urban shopping centre into a vibrant, sustainable and diverse “cultural hub” that will attract visitors. Construction will take place in two phases, with the first phase of housing and public amenities opening in 2022 and the entire project slated to be complete by 2026.

Oakridge Centre
Vancouver's Oakridge Centre, formerly known as Oakridge Mall, was opened in 1959 and is currently part of a redevelopment project slated to be complete by 2026. 

Alberta’s Fort Station Mall in Fort Saskatchewan boasts a medical center and a preschool and gymnastics center in what used to be an overgrown parking lot with a few rundown buildings. Residential is slated to be added in the near future.

As retail continues to change, its real estate must also continue to evolve, adapt and reinvent to stay relevant and meet consumer needs in our communities.

Dana Kreis Glencer

Dana Kreis Glencer is a member of CREW Detroit and an Attorney with Dawda, Mann, Mulcahy Sadler, PLC. She specializes in a variety of areas within commercial real estate, representing developers, retailers and investors in transactions and projects for industrial, warehouse, office and retail properties across the United States. Glencer is currently the Chair of the CREW Network Industry Research Committee. 

Andrea Welburn

Andrea Welburn is a member of CREW Vancouver and Manager of Research & Information with Cushman & Wakefield's Vancouver office. Welburn acts as a research gatekeeper for Cushman & Wakefield, creating quarterly and yearly regional statistics. As a strong communicator with an equally strong analytical background, Welburn gives brokers and clients the market information they need to make informed real estate decisions. Welburn is a member of the CREW Network Industry Research Committee. 

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