The concept of the traditional shopping center or mall has been updated, says Mike Crislip, president of Cleveland-based Herschman Architects. In the past, mall tenants depended upon each other for the traffic generated through the mall atmosphere, and traditional strip centers were considered convenience retailers, where customers parked in front of the strip and had direct access to the retail location of their choice.
Crislip says that over the last decade, the big box stores -- like two of Herschman Architects' clients, Dick's Sporting Goods and Bed Bath and Beyond -- have evolved and are now considered destination stores. They were introduced as stand-alone sites, but in the last five or six years, groupings of big box stores in a single shopping center have become power centers.
"They're finding that they do better sales when they're grouped together than when they're stand-alone," Crislip says.
A popular move among big box retailers is to attach themselves to shopping malls as single- or double-level stores in the space where traditional anchor stores have moved out. Outside entrances, separate from mall entrances, give shoppers added convenience.
Another recent trend is the lifestyle center, which combines shopping, dining and entertainment, and turns a simple shopping excursion into an experience.
"(A lifestyle center) combines the convenience of parking in front of the store ... with all the cross-shopping and the traffic that's generated in a traditional mall," Crislip says.
Design trends -- emphasizing detail, landscaping and the use of brick and natural materials -- go hand-in-hand with these lifestyle centers
"If everyone could recreate Chagrin Falls, that's where things are going," Crislip says. " ... Owners have a certain budget they're working (with) to develop the property, and that's based on the income they can make from the rental to the tenants. Sometimes that budget doesn't coincide with the expectations of the city or the tenants in terms of the level of design, the level of detail and the cost of the materials."
These design trends provide new challenges for architects who specialize in retail shopping centers. Crislip says his firm is seeing a renaissance in the redevelopment of shopping malls, and it's worked with Severance Center, the oldest mall in Cleveland.
"Several years ago, we de-malled it and turned it into a power center with big box tenants, and they're now currently developing outlots on that," he says.
Crislip says everything recycles itself. Large retailers such as Kmart and Service Merchandise have abandoned their sites around the United States, and their former locations are being broken up into big box tenants.
"Jo-Ann and Bed Bath and Beyond are going in and taking portions of these Kmarts, so they're having a rebirth as being broken up into these big box tenants ... and being adapted for reuse," he says.
But, he warns, the reuse of older spaces may not always be the right choice for a new tenant when it comes to the changing demographics in a shopping center's locale.
"Sometimes, what was a prime site 10 years ago has been bypassed, and there's another prime site that's closer to freeway access than the old site," he says. " ... That site's going to capture the traffic before it gets to the older site." How to reach: Herschman Architects, (216) 464-4144 or www.herschmanarchitects.com
No 'I' in 'team'
Herschman Architects President Mike Crislip says there are certain things architects should do when working with business owners to design a retail location.
* Take a team approach. His firm works closely with the owner and the contractor from the beginning of the project, which allows for budgeting the job up front. "If there are large box tenants in there, you've got to partner the tenants on this team because they're going to have a say in how they want things done," he says.
* Partner with the city. Some cities give architects the freedom to do what they want, but other city governments have strict building rules and codes. "Sometimes it takes a series of meetings to get to the point where everyone's in agreement on what's going to be built," he says.
* Think like a tenant's architect. Crislip says many architects who work specifically for developers don't understand the thoughts or needs of the tenant. This often leads to a rocky path in which the tenant receives the architect's design for approval and then wants to make a lot of changes.
* Remember that timing is everything. In most cases, the developer signs a lease with the tenant to be moved in by a certain date. "With most of the big box stores, the landlord builds the store, and the tenant moves in with their fixtures," Crislip says. "If they don't meet those dates, there are severe penalties. A lot of it is making sure the process moves smoothly so the store and the shopping center open on time."