Beyond the Build


Trend Spotting: Adaptive Re-use of Existing Commercial Properties

It’s not surprising that in the U.S., only one new enclosed mall has opened in the last 4 years. In that same time, it has been estimated that nearly 500 of the 2,000+ malls in our country have closed. That translates to a lot of property and structures available for immediate use. But who wants to buy mall space nobody is frequenting? That’s where a growing trend comes into play.

Renovation and adaptive re-use of malls and other commercial properties is on the rise. Many of these properties are strategically located but need to be oriented in another direction. The focus is on taking existing assets and making them stronger by redeveloping them or retrofitting them for a use different from the original intent.

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Simon Properties has earmarked its entire $200 million-plus construction budget this year for renovation and redevelopment rather than new building. Others are taking a similar path by changing vacant properties for completely new uses. From my involvement, I see this movement continuing, at least in the short and mid term future.

Another trend we see is, where weather permits, the concept of opening enclosed spaces to the outdoors. It’s “de-malling” the mall, so to speak. That doesn’t mean the existing structures have to be torn down. We are just finding new ways to use these older properties.

The bonus? Adapting existing structures for new use is about as green as it gets. We’re not disturbing any untouched land and we’re cutting back on suburban sprawl. It’s a win-win.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.