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Q: How popular are inside-outside hybrid malls with consumers? With developers?

Dorsky Hodgson + Partners

William Dorsky, President: The hybrid mall — which blends a conventional mall with lifestyle elements — is being selectively introduced to add the increasingly appealing lifestyle concepts to the traditional mall environment.

This is becoming popular with customers because of the broad appeal of the lifestyle components, which include diverse activities such as dining, recreation, specialty shopping and, in some cases, living and working.

Developers are feeling their way with this new hybrid because it depends on each individual market area's location and environment, as well as other factors that give retail/mixed-use centers their raison d'etre.

Communication Arts, Inc.

Henry G. Beer, Co-Chairman: It is important to remember that until the development of the enclosed air-conditioned mall in the late fifties, all retail experiences were “indoor/outdoor.” One proceeded down Main Street, from shop interior to shop interior. Combining an outdoor retail component with an interior mall seems a natural, and if the adjacency of the outdoor component is correct relative to the parking and access to the interior mall portion of the project, they can be very successful. The outdoor shopping component also creates the impression of easy access and appears to facilitate “precision shopping,” where the customer only visits one or two tenants rather than spending two or three hours walking the entire project. Developers have recognized that, in all but the most affluent communities (where women have more shopping/leisure time available to them), customers respond favorably to the feeling of convenience and easy access conveyed by an outdoor addition to the traditional shopping center or mall.

Shopping is an intensely social, emotional and cultural activity. When this remarkable human interaction can be realized in an attractive, evocative setting, there's a good chance that dwell time will be increased because the experience is somehow more pleasurable and richer. In the same way that selection is important in merchandise, so too it is important to provide shoppers with a variety of “sets” within which people play out their social lives.

Are these environments popular with developers? In my experience, anything that is seen to provide a competitive advantage to the developer is seen by them as popular. It has been interesting observing the rapid rush to this “outdoor” approach when it began to be seen in the marketplace. Now that the dust has settled, some developers are chastened because it turns out that, like most trends, the outdoor additive isn't a sure-fire answer to all problems.

GSI Architects, Inc.

Noel Cupkovic, Principal: In general, consumers like and appreciate mall hybrids. Rather than a typical mall visit, the mall hybrid offers a more unique experience incorporating an outdoor and indoor organization of the retail diagram.

From the developer's perspective, the question is how successful these projects are from an economic standpoint. On this point, it seems that the jury is out. In some cases, the regional mall component is built before the surrounding residential is saturated yielding an economic model that is not yet fully mature. The key to a hybrid mall's success is the leasing diagram. Even with a plan that looks outstanding on paper — it is the leasing strategy of destination anchors, co-tenancies and cross-shopping, working in concert with an understanding of the market — that makes the project work.

MulvannyG2 Architecture

Y.E. Smith, President: Shoppers appreciate the diverse tenant mix that hybrids bring. Open-air tenants often include destination restaurants, and retailers that are too large for enclosed malls. Also, outdoor settings offer a wide variety of place-making opportunities, unattainable with enclosed malls. These heightened choices, combined with a dynamic environment, offer consumers an appealing alternative to the standard enclosed mall. Unless the smaller open-air tenants have national backing or deep pockets, they can be susceptible to soft economies. It may be difficult for them to compete with the enclosed mall portion.

KA, Inc. Architecture

James B. Heller, President: Hybrid retail projects have had varied success in this relatively new format. The concept will continue to be improved upon in future years as retailers continue to re-image themselves and developers look to capture longer periods of visitation by the consumer. The more successful projects to date seem to be those projects that are truly nighttime draws — i.e., centers that have numerous restaurants, a bookstore, nightclubs, health clubs and/or a movie theater. Other projects with more traditional retailers have had some difficulty “competing” with their own interior component or making a satisfactory transition between interior and exterior.

Developers have and will continue to strive to attract more people to their projects. Restaurants and retailers desire to be adjacent to their own kind to draw more and more consumers to their front door. Consumers generally like to utilize these exterior areas as long as the climate is comfortable and the connectivity to the mall and nearby parking is convenient. Without these accommodations, consumers may not shop the outdoor venues as frequently.

Morris Architects

James H. Pope, Principal: Hybrid malls offer an opportunity to create a distinctive entertainment experience for retail projects. The key to a successful hybrid is in the creation of a unique place that becomes a destination. This gives designers and developers the opportunity to create destination attractions composed of distinctive entertainment and dining district environments. The most successful ones complement the mall as stand-alone traffic generators, rather than rely on the mall as traditional food courts and cinemas in malls do. The additional traffic and resulting increased sales in the traditional retail mall are welcomed by owners, and the convenience of a single destination for shoppers looking for entertainment make this approach popular with both owners and shoppers.

MCG Architecture

Rick Gaylord, CEO: Hybrid malls have grown increasingly popular in recent years with consumers and developers alike. They provide a cohesive blending of the traditional enclosed mall and the growing trend towards open-air retail centers. Hybrids are particularly attractive for regions with inclement weather, where indoor venues see an increase during the winter months and outdoor components respond to visitors' desire to be in open-air environments. This creates a place where people are welcomed year — round, a benefit to the consumer as well as the retailer.

MCG Architecture has found that clients across North America have embraced hybrid centers. From Center State Crossing in Missouri, Desert Ridge in Arizona, Deerfoot Meadows in Canada, and other numerous projects across the continent, the combination of indoor and outdoor centers attracts consumers.

RTKL Associates

Jeff Gunning, Vice President: Hybrid malls are popular for a variety of reasons: Consumers have grown tired of the mall's sameness. It's likely that the traditional mall diagram has been taken to its ultimate form of expression. Enclosed, atmospherically controlled environments can only hold so much appeal, and today's consumers seem to want more natural, organic environments with a deeper resonance of community and civic-mindedness.

Hybrids appeal to developers because they can offer more leasing flexibility. They expand the merchandise mix, draw from a broader consumer pool and can extend the trading hours of a center — all compelling revenue propositions. Open-air spaces, for example, lend themselves extremely well to food and entertainment uses, which tend to stretch operating hours well into the evening.

Properly conceived, hybrids also appeal to municipalities, especially those that are concerned with sustainability and smart growth initiatives. Our approach is to take a strong urban design perspective on these projects, meaning we're concerned with context, public transport and mixing uses to create a balanced live/work/play environment. As a true centerpiece to a community, hybrid centers have a great deal of appeal to growing cities and towns who are interested in controlled development with manageable density.

Beame Architectural Partnership

Lawrence Beame, President: Outdoor components work best when the tenants are primarily entertainment oriented, such as restaurants, bars, clubs and cinemas. This is not a great departure from early mall days when restaurants were located adjacent to mall entrances.

Climate and security, however, can be major influences. The weather, for instance, can dictate different outdoor components, thereby creating two very distinct environments, which in turn can disconnect the two parts. This, of course, can have the unintended consequence of defeating the goal of encouraging circulation. The outdoor component, on the other hand, can provide a great front door if it is animated or made interesting in some other way.

Consumers as well as developers respond positively to this concept. We have been asked to design outdoor mall components with both entertainment and/or big box retailers. We're currently adding outdoor components to existing two malls.

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