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We hear a lot about the demise of shopping malls – once thestaple of the American suburban psyche – but by thinking creativelyand applying the fundamentals of commercial real estatedevelopment, malls can be redeveloped to serve, once again, ascommunity hubs.

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In Austin, Texas, the former Highland Mall, which once boasted1.2 million square feet, is now home to the largest campus of theAustin Community College.

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In Vancouver, British Columbia, the 540,000-square-foot formerBrentwood Town Centre is now The Amazing Brentwood, amaster-planned redevelopment with the potential for 4.5 millionsquare feet of residential properties, 1.1 million square feet ofretail and 1 million square feet of office.

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And in Nashville, Tennessee, the 100 Oaks Mall – onceTennessee's largest mall – is now home to the Vanderbilt MedicalCenter, which combined 20 outlying clinics into one location thatmore efficiently serves its patients.

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Malls may seem like dinosaurs in today's world of onlineshopping and open-air retail environments, but a retail property'sproximity to highways and residential areas can make it a goodcandidate for redevelopment or adaptive reuse. Working closely withlocal officials and members of the community is critical to aproject's success.

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Every underperforming or shuttered mall has its own set ofopportunities and obstacles. However, there are common strategiesthat developers and lenders can follow when evaluating the sites'potential. These are articulated in NAIOP Research Foundation's newreport: Repurposing Retail Centers: Profiles in Adaptation,Repositioning and Redevelopment.

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And the results are tangible. A successful mall redevelopmentproject often provides a community with significant economic andsocial benefits.

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The NAIOP Research Foundation report details five unique casestudies from across North America, sharing vital takeaways that arespecific to each case study and yet can be almost universallyapplied:

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Redevelopment can be a cause of concern within a neighborhood;however, by communicating and working with community leaders andactivists, it usually will be outweighed by the dissatisfactionwith a decaying mall.

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The size and scope of certain types of developments will requiresignificant and complicated financing, possibly including workingwith multiple lenders for different portions of the project.

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Integrating new uses and managing construction while retailtenants remain open is challenging. Effective constructionmanagement is critical. With significant overlap in a project'stiming, financing and delivery dates, construction and operationsmay have to occur simultaneously across the property. But retailerscan continue to operate successfully in the middle of a largeactive construction zone when managed correctly.

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Retailers can be hesitant about sharing parking spaces withother types of tenants such as medical offices. Yet researchdemonstrates that medical office peak hours tend to be at timeswhen retail foot traffic was lowest, and that peak retail foottraffic occurs when medical offices were closed.

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Overall, of course, those considering a mall redevelopment willhave to think beyond traditional retail uses.

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In the cases presented in the NAIOP report, the respectiveregions experienced improvements in land use that impacted thequality of life for their residents through job creation, expandededucational opportunities, additional open space and access tohealth care.

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The end result may be vastly different from the malls we onceknew, but developers and lenders should have confidence thatcompletely or even partially redeveloped malls can yet be a symbolof vitality for the communities they serve.

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Thomas J. Bisacquino is president and CEO ofNAIOP.

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