The retail mall, longstanding emblem of the urban landscape that it is, just got a whole lot more interesting — particularly if you’re a landlord wrestling with the dilemma of filling his empty storefronts.
Now, more than just the chance to peruse the new-arrivals racks at Banana Republic and scarf down an Orange Julius at the food court, the mall extends an entirely different offering to its clientele: a high-tech, nicely equipped workspace in its very midst.
This innovation advances a novel marriage of two thriving paradigms: working and shopping. And while the union has existed before now (retail operations have long provided the ground-floor foundation for office towers), this office-in-a-mall arrangement is an undeniable novelty.
But it’s a novelty to which property managers should pay heed.
Massive retailer Westfield Corp. has unveiled its first stab at this concept in the Westfield San Francisco Centre, an upscale urban shopping mall in San Francisco.
Here, a new initiative called Bespoke introduces 35,000 square feet of co-working, technology demonstration space and a high-tech sophisticated presentation theatre to, of all places, the belly of a mall. Thanks to it, folks who might not otherwise have wandered into the land of Sonoma Williams and Yögen Fruz can set up their laptops, lay down their smartphones, call in some high-speed wireless and get to work.
With this combination of strategically located office, product-demonstration and presentation space, all the suffering parts of the pie get addressed: the flagging retail trade gets a novel shot in the arm, office space suffering a sorry utilization rate of 35-40 percent finds fresh blood, and even the villainous on-line shopping ogre gets an elbow to the gut.
So goes the morphing mall. And in a world changing as fast as it is, no one should be surprised to discover yet another example of unprecedented mixed-use innovation emerging from within it. In other words, managers and operators fixated on traditional uses for commercial space ignore this development at their peril.