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Mall operators seek new avenues to find success

Delaware Public Media

On a recent afternoon, Geri Smith stopped at a Honda dealership in Salisbury, Maryland, for car service.

There was a bit of a wait, but Smith found a productive way to pass the time. She took a shuttle from the dealership to nearby Salisbury Mall, where she bought a pillow from Macy’s and drawer pulls from HomeGoods.

“It was a nice change from sitting around waiting for the car to be ready,” she says.

Malls are getting creative in finding ways to attract shoppers, reinvent their mix of goods and services, reinterpret their space and otherwise evolve in a contracting retail market.

In Philadelphia, Gallery Mall on Market Street recently reopened as the Fashion District. The $420-million makeover houses a mix of shops, services and activities, which the developers have labeled “retailtainment.” The roster includes clothiers such as H&M, Eddie Bauer and Armani X, the mega makeup store Ulta, sipping stops at Starbucks and City Winery, and a bowling alley and movie theater.

Here are a few other reinvented malls:

  • In Rhode Island, Providence Arcade Mall is now a mixed-use development with shops, restaurants and small businesses on the first level and 48 micro-loft apartments on the second story.
  • In Tennessee, 100 Oaks Mall has morphed into a hybrid. Half the spaces houses Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s clinic, waiting area and offices; the other half is retail space.
  • In Virginia, the Ballston Common mall is now Ballston Quarter, an open air, mixed-use development that has become the epicenter of its neighborhood in Arlington.

Still, not all malls go on to new beginnings. In Thailand, a moribund mall ravaged by flood waters became a mosquito breeding ground. The locals released a school of koi into the waters to eat the larva while the shopping center remains in ruins.
Elsewhere across the pond, luxury malls are attracting high rollers with one-of-a-kind features. Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates has more than 100 restaurants and Ski Dubai, the world’s largest indoor snow park, a course where people can ski, snowboard and play.

In addition to 150 stores and 45 restaurants, The Puerto Venecia Shopping Resort in Zaragoza, Spain, offers dozens of action-oriented activities, such as go-karts, lakes with boats and Dock39, which produces a surf wave.

In Shiraz, Iran, the sprawling Persian Gulf Complex encompasses 2,500 stores, a hotel, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, three-story billiard hall, tennis courts, a cinema, a convention center, a helipad and two amusement parks.

In Canada, shoppers can weather long winters at enclosed malls. West Edmonton Mall in Alberta is the biggest mall in North America and boasts more than 800 stores,100 restaurants, a wave pool, indoor shooting range and the world’s largest indoor triple loop roller coaster.

Eileen Smith Dallabrida has written for Delaware Public Media since 2010. She's also written for USA Today, National Geographic Traveler, the Christian Science Monitor and many other news outlets.