It’s a Retail Revolution (Not an Apocalypse!)
The Interlock, a mixed use community coming soon to West Midtown Atlanta
What is a mall? It’s a phrase often used to describe a group of stores all under one roof where shoppers race to do their holiday shopping or locate a last-minute outfit. In years past, a mall was the epitome of retail greatness, with everything all in one place. It was the spot where many teenagers were first allowed time away alone from their parents for social gatherings and where adults would spend hours browsing stores or keeping toddlers occupied. But now, more and more people are predicting the extinction of the traditional concept of a shopping mall.
The mall is dead. Retail is dead. Brick-and-mortar stores are dead. It’s a retail apocalypse. We hear these phrases all the time. This steady decline in retail’s confidence is fueled by seeing news headlines, such as “78 Kmart and Sears closing this September” by USA Today, and more recently, “Brookstone is closing all its mall stores” by CNN.
But, is dead the right word? As technology has advanced within the past 3-5 years, so has the way people shop. According toV12 Data, 67 percent of Millennials and 56 percent of Gen Xers prefer to shop online rather than in store. It’s convenient - we get it, but what those online stores don’t have are experiences. What’s the top reason consumers prefer to shop in store instead of online? They want to see, feel and experience the product in person.
The last major shopping mall to open in the U.S. was University Town Center in Sarasota, Florida in 2014, which some experts speculate could be the last. Fast forward four years and a lot has changed. So, how can these concept shopping centers survive the "retail apocalypse"? The simple answer: developers have to up their game and change their business model.
S.J. Collins Enterprises is an example of one of these forward-thinking developers that is bucking recent trends. As of August 2018, they have acquired and developed more than 60 retail, mixed-use, multifamily and office projects throughout the continental U.S. They’ve made it work through many channels, such as their locations, long-term relationships with high-growth retailers, quick and thorough results that lead to understanding client expectations and a first-class team with a proven track record of success. In reality, it’s so much more than that.
“It’s all about experience,” says Jeff Garrison (above, center with Steve Collins, left and Jeff DeHart, right) partner at Georgia-based S.J. Collins Enterprises. “Shoppers will come to you if you give them a reason to, and we believe what we are seeing now is more of a retail revolution than an apocalypse.”
S.J. Collins Enterprises has found the perfect allure: walkability, connectivity and accessibility. Movie theaters and restaurants are an easy fix to draw in consumers, but that additional pizzazz is to offer the opportunity to walk around outside and work online, with WiFi hot spots and cafes.
“As a company, I think we do a great job finding the market niche for our shopping centers – what works and what’s missing,” said Garrison. “It’s not just about stopping in to grab a gift, grocery shop or entertaining the kids. It’s about creating an experience for everyone who steps foot on our properties where they’ll leave wanting more.”
Two perfect examples of this idea of investing in the right stores and knowing your audience are The Marketplace at Tech Center and 5th Street Station.
The Marketplace at Tech Center is a shopping center in Newport News, Virginia, that features stores like Whole Foods Market, B.J.’s Brewhouse, Ulta Beauty, DSW, Mellow Mushroom and more. With this mix of retailers, apartments, office and even a fitness club, it’s a one-stop plaza to grab organic food, sit down for a craft beer with friends, get dolled up with a makeover, purchase back-to-school shoes for the kids or indulge in some of the best pizza ever.
The key to creating Marketplace at Tech Center was finding the right mix of retailers and incorporating those retailers into the local community. The average age within a 15-minute drive of this center is 34.8 years old, rents and occupancy rates here are higher than at adjacent properties and the center is thriving.
5th Street Station is still being developed and boasts Wegman’s, Alamo Drafthouse, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Bank of the James, Krispy Kreme, Timberwood Tap House, Planet Fitness and more. This mixed-use shopping center in Charlottesville, Virginia also recently launched The Yard, a food hall of sorts with indoor and outdoor seating with multiple options for dining. This food hall theme at The Yard is a nod to big-city trends nationwide. 5th Street Station carves a place in the market which wasn’t fulfilled previously. It’s an open-air, trendy, edgy spot for people to hangout, grab a beer, eat food and just enjoy life. These restaurants feature good grub, fit for foodies, with variety for anyone. It’s the overall experience of this center that brings people back.
In Decatur, Georgia, S.J. Collins Enterprises is currently developing North Decatur Square. This unique center will have apartments, retail shopping, restaurants and a one- acre park behind the soon to open 365 by Whole Foods Market. It was an old car lot that the developer purchased to be converted into a new mixed-use center. The developer contacted the surrounding neighborhoods in advance of the project to see how they could contribute to the site plan. They found a need for a walkable lifestyle that gives locals an option to take care of everything they need surrounded by a beautiful, public area for people to work and play.
North Decatur Square is also right across from the newly converted Emory Decatur medical facility. “We worked with the hospital to create a connection point and build a traffic signal near the hospital’s front door. It’s literally only 1,000 feet from the front door of the hospital to our project. In addition to the hospital guests, there are doctors, nurses and workers from the surrounding office buildings that had limited offerings before,” says Garrison. The end goal, he says, was becoming part of the community fabric, which guided the decision to connect to Emory, build internal bike lanes, parks and walkability.
When retail hubs bring something new to the market, it benefits the entire region. The team at S.J. Collins Enterprises pushed themselves to create something even more unique. Enter the highly anticipated project coming soon to West Midtown, Atlanta: The Interlock. This mixed-use property, expected to open in 2020, will offer an unprecedented space in market. Stylish storefronts will sit next to incubator offices and residences will blend in with vibrant city life.
An incredible rooftop experience will offer visitors a modern private pool club and lounge with a retractable roof. An upscale 12,000-square-foot two-story restaurant and outdoor bar with covered patio will complete the space with an open area for relaxing and enjoying the view. Visitors will enjoy an infinity-edge pool that drops off into the city skyline.
The $450 million Interlock community will come in the form of 200,000 square feet of office space, 105,000 square feet of retail space, 350 apartment units, 70 single-family homes and a 145-room boutique hotel.
“This project is the epitome of the retail revolution,” says Garrison. “It will completely change the way people envision a shopping center and those who are lucky to live and work there will have everything Atlanta has to offer at their fingertips,” says Garrison.
So is retail dead? Is it a retail apocalypse? We suppose it depends on who you ask! And if you ask the forward-thinking developers at S.J. Collins Enterprises, the answer is a definite no. “Retail is just changing, and those who change with it will not only survive, but thrive.”