Traditional malls are out — and de-malling is in


In today’s fast-paced world of tight schedules and front-door deliveries, mega-mall shopping is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

When faced with the prospect of a multi-store shopping experience, customers are choosing to park close, get in and get out, and skip the endless browsing. Convenience is a top priority for savvy shoppers across the country, and West Michigan is no exception. Hence the new trend of de-malling.

The term “mall” often brings to mind an enclosed retail space with hallways full of boutique shops, department stores, food courts and display kiosks. It also may bring to mind words like “outdated,” “vacant” and “inconvenient.” To combat this loss of interest, more and more malls are turning to the de-malling trend.

De-malling refers to the transition from a typical indoor structure with a few anchor stores to a completely open-air shopping experience, where every retailer has a store front with access to parking and walkways. The construction industry has seen a surge in redeveloping malls over the past 10 years, including two de-malling projects here in West Michigan. Centerpointe Mall of Grand Rapids, now Shops at CenterPoint, has seen marked improvements in revenue and occupancy since re-opening as an outdoor shopping center in 2013. In fact, Centerpoint boasted 100 percent occupancy for the first time since 2000, according to local news reports. A similar process soon will be completed at Westshore Mall in Holland, now The Shops at Westshore.

Retailers are drawn to these power centers for their parking lot frontage, ease of access and popularity. The buzz surrounding a de-malling redevelopment not only draws in new customers, but also entices previous customers to experience the update firsthand.

CWD Real Estate Investment is investing in the trend with the announcement of the newest de-malling project, the Breton Village mall near East Grand Rapids. In 2017, the 90,000-square-foot mall will be transformed into a 61,000-square-foot, open air shopping experience with a new 19,000-square-foot out-lot building. The center will boast trendy stores and a plenitude of parking. The redesign will include central outdoor walkways so all store fronts will be accessible from front to back, creating a more seamless experience for customers. A majority of favorite retailers, like Jos. A. Banks and The Loft, will remain and a dozen new retail spaces will be available.

The hope is that this project will transform the dated mall into a popular West Michigan shopping destination.

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As president of Triangle Associates in Grand Rapids, Mitch Watt is involved in the day-to-day operations of the construction company, including oversight of the firm’s business development activities that focus on marketing, sales, strategic planning, pre-construction phases and design-build services. Mitch also serves as project executive on key projects, especially those with design-build contracts. He has particular expertise in facility assessment, master planning, concept design and development, construction documentation and construction services. Mitch has more than 28 years of experience in the industry and serves on a number of local boards and committees. Previously, he was VP and managing principal of URS’ Michigan operations.