Beyond the Build

Construction Trends

New Canvas to Be Painted

When I was a child growing up in Atlanta, the Lenox Square Shopping Center opened. At the time, it was one of the most remarkable retail centers in the southeast. There were two department stores–Rich’s, which was still owned by Mr. and Mrs. Rich, and Davidson’s, which is now Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. There was also a movie theater, a two-level Woolworth’s, a bowling alley, a post office, a nice cafeteria and a grocery store, as I recall. Unlike now, Lenox Square was a single-level, open air mall. I still remember going to the movies there and seeing “Goldfinger” as a 13-year-old.

Just like Lenox has evolved, retail continues to change. While 60 years of change is a lot, I would estimate that we are due for 10 years of change in the next couple of years. What’s ahead?

  • We are social animals and we need place to meet and enjoy. Good retail space will continue to grow and prosper, but new neighbors will also be moving in like non-retail tenants, more health care, work spaces, critical logistics and residential. Let’s also remember that groceries are the center of a community as well. It’s a nice mix, for sure.
  • That said, maybe we should stop calling these places “shopping centers” and just call them  “centers” or “properties.”
  • Properties that are in a desirable location will continue to be successful, and new tenancies will actively compete for available space.
  • Obviously, centers that are already struggling are likely to struggle even more unless there are changes in surrounding demographics.

Creative minds will win and adaptive reuse might be stronger study in real estate classes. In retail, there are New Canvases to paint.

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Merrill Stewart Jr.

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