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EvilDeveloper

Are 2-sided retail buildings a fad?

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After a year of exploring design options for a Mixed-use development, and 4 architectural firms later, it seems that the topo of a site would benefit greatly from addind some 2-sided retail buildings (which are appearing more in "Lifestyle" type shopping centers.)

Anyone have any experience/strong opinions on these?

In case you are not familiar, these are generally 60' deep strips of retail that often open on one side to a "main street" retail corridor and to a parking field on the other side, so that customers can cross the store from front to back.

Thanks.

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These types of centers are also becoming very popular here in the deep south (I know of a few in my city alone.) Could this be considered a fad? I think that's hard to say, because right now they're mostly successful. I personally think all shopping centers are based on some kind of trend... you cycle between large power centers and malls throughout time, and now the lifestyle center concept. I personally am fond of the lifetsyle centers, but during some parts of the year (mid-winter and mid-summer) they don't do as well as an enclosed mall does.

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Lifestyle centers are a fad. In ten years we'll be as sick of them as we are of malls now, and we were of downtown retail thirty years ago.

You're right, we Americans are never satified for very long!

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^^

Lifestyle Centers are going to be around for a very long time. People will always prefer open-air streetside shopping over enclosed mall shopping. Lifestyle Centers have always been around, but we called them main streets or town centers.

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Are we just talking about retail with parking in the rear rather than strip mall style in front?

Strip malls aren't usually 2-sided. Most enclosed malls aren't 2-sided except for the department stores. Lifestyle centers are almost always 2-sided with some stores being 3-sided. A lifestyle center is neither a strip mall or an open-air mall. A lifestyle center is modelled after a town center or main street with a good mixture of retail, offices, restaurants and entertainment. Some even have condos integrated into them. They'll go out of style as soon as popular downtown squares or main streets go out of style. Lifestyle centers also tend to be built in suburban or even rural parts of a metro versus being situated within a downtown area which already has a town center or main street, which prevents traffic congestion in the more urbanized downtown areas. Today there are only a little over 120 lifestyle centers in the United States with around 40 being built this year alone. There are several thousand enclosed and open-air malls in the United States and they are dying at a rate of about 100 per year. The typical shopping mall will eventually fade out of existence while the lifestyle center will remain forever.

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Strip malls aren't usually 2-sided. Most enclosed malls aren't 2-sided except for the department stores. Lifestyle centers are almost always 2-sided with some stores being 3-sided. A lifestyle center is neither a strip mall or an open-air mall. A lifestyle center is modelled after a town center or main street with a good mixture of retail, offices, restaurants and entertainment. Some even have condos integrated into them. They'll go out of style as soon as popular downtown squares or main streets go out of style. Lifestyle centers also tend to be built in suburban or even rural parts of a metro versus being situated within a downtown area which already has a town center or main street, which prevents traffic congestion in the more urbanized downtown areas. Today there are only a little over 120 lifestyle centers in the United States with around 40 being built this year alone. There are several thousand enclosed and open-air malls in the United States and they are dying at a rate of about 100 per year. The typical shopping mall will eventually fade out of existence while the lifestyle center will remain forever.
I'm not sure where you're getting your information from.

By definition, a lifestyle center is a shopping center with an outdoor traditional streetscape layout with sit-down restaurants and a conglomeration of specialty retailers. (reference) or more specifically "A lifestyle center, in commercial development in the United States, a is a shopping center or mixed-used commercial development that combines the traditional retail functions of a shopping mall but with leisure amenities oriented towards upscale consumers. Lifestyle centers, which emerged as a concept in the late 1990s, are sometimes labeled "boutique malls" and are often located in affluent suburban areas. ..." (reference)

Nowhere in those definitions is there suggested that a lifestyle center is anything eternal or vastly different than a typical shopping center or mall.

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I'm not sure where you're getting your information from.

By definition, a lifestyle center is a shopping center with an outdoor traditional streetscape layout with sit-down restaurants and a conglomeration of specialty retailers. (reference) or more specifically "A lifestyle center, in commercial development in the United States, a is a shopping center or mixed-used commercial development that combines the traditional retail functions of a shopping mall but with leisure amenities oriented towards upscale consumers. Lifestyle centers, which emerged as a concept in the late 1990s, are sometimes labeled "boutique malls" and are often located in affluent suburban areas. ..." (reference)

Nowhere in those definitions is there suggested that a lifestyle center is anything eternal or vastly different than a typical shopping center or mall.

Those are two very generalized and very brief definitions of a lifestyle center. In a broader spectrum the lifestyle center is, by it's very name, defined as a place that fits into people's lifestyles. A typical shopping center or mall is a place where people tend to go to shop, eat, and maybe catch a movie. A lifestyle center is more of an answer to sprawl, by combining the elements of a mall with the elements of a town center, where people go to shop, eat, and maybe catch a movie, but also to spend the day with friends and family without leaving their car very far behind. Another aspect of a lifestyle center is the master planned community of which many are attached to. Calling a lifestyle center a shopping center or a mall is like calling a main street or downtown square a shopping center or a mall. They're just not the same.

If you'd like to read articles about lifestyle centers by many professionals in the real estate and retail fields here is a LINK to an exhaustive supply of related articles.

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Those are two very generalized and very brief definitions of a lifestyle center. In a broader spectrum the lifestyle center is, by it's very name, defined as a place that fits into people's lifestyles. A typical shopping center or mall is a place where people tend to go to shop, eat, and maybe catch a movie. A lifestyle center is more of an answer to sprawl, by combining the elements of a mall with the elements of a town center, where people go to shop, eat, and maybe catch a movie, but also to spend the day with friends and family without leaving their car very far behind. Another aspect of a lifestyle center is the master planned community of which many are attached to. Calling a lifestyle center a shopping center or a mall is like calling a main street or downtown square a shopping center or a mall. They're just not the same.

If you'd like to read articles about lifestyle centers by many professionals in the real estate and retail fields here is a LINK to an exhaustive supply of related articles.

You're missing my point. This lifestyle center push is not a reinvention of the wheel, it's just another wheel. No matter how you try to disguise the fact that these are malls, they still are malls, pure and simple.

They are planned developments owned and managed by a single entity that are dependent on retail business to provide operating income. They are private property, just like a mall is. Downtown areas are not malls because they have multiple owners, multiple managers and the main pedestrian and vehicular access is publicly-owned and maintained space.

I read many of the same things you have linked, and I also did my college thesis on shopping centers, even designing what could be called, in your parlance, a lifestyle center. I'm here to tell you the reason that the definitions are general is because there is no set paradigm for lifestyle centers. Even the industry can't agree on a definition, and the projects labeled as such tend to range in size, quality and amenities. But one distinction is clear: a privately-owned, master-developed public space filled with retail shops is a mall; legally, physically, and architecturally, no matter what a developer calls it.

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Well said, Mr. Rocks! I agree that a lifestyle center is another version of a mall. Lifestyle centers are like urban commercial centers without the housing. The housing that typically surrounds a vibrant urban commercial district has been replaced by parking lots in most lifestyle centers.

On to the front/back issue...

Two-sided retail buildings are here to stay. Most businesses feel that parking brings the most customers, so they want to present a "front" face to the parking lot. At the same time, some developers and many city governments are re-learning the value of strong public space and the effect that it can have on the success of a commercial area. City governments that are trying to create strong public space and "great streets" are requiring new developments to place the building between the street and the parking lot and present a "front" face to the street. The city that I live in sometimes requires two front faces, one to the street and one to the rear parking.

Honestly, I don't see the need for a "front" facing a rear parking lot. Personally, I have no problem parking behind a building (if I drive), and walking around the building to the front entrance. I think that developers are worried that many others wouldn't do the same. Maybe at some point, the pendulum will shift back to pre-WWII and rear parking lots will begin to lose their front entrances. In any case, two-sided buildings reflect a basic conflict between parking lots and public space, which is that parking lots make awful public space.

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Evil Developer,

Not knowing your site, maybe you could "chop up" your 60' swath with some corridors that lead customers to the fronts of the retail stores from the parking lot. You could have side entrances near the front for these stores and could also offer display areas or seating areas for restaurants within these corridors. That way, you wouldn't have the extra expense of having two fronts on the retail and could still provide some visual interest from the parking lot. These corridors should not just be flat wall planes, but should have landcaping, wall/roofline modulation, and relief that you might see on the front of a business. A dressed up exterior corridor would likely create fewer headaches and cost than a second front facing a parking lot.

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Steven, aka stevenrocks, is a freelance writer for the Roanoke Times, he writes stories on retail, very good, his article is always in the thursday edition.

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Steven, aka stevenrocks, is a freelance writer for the Roanoke Times, he writes stories on retail, very good, his article is always in the thursday edition.
Thanks for the kudos, Weill. :)

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Lifestyle centers are a fad. In ten years we'll be as sick of them as we are of malls now, and we were of downtown retail thirty years ago.

x2.

I still prefer malls. For those of us who don't have a winter climate like Florida, we like being inside when doing our shopping, and not having to run outside store to store. Malls generate more traffic during the winter than lifestyle centers.

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