Open outdoor space integrated among retail has become a highly sought after luxury during the COVID-19 pandemic, while requiring ample amount of open space for social distancing. Though we may be on the tail end of the pandemic, the commodity of open outdoor space in shopping centers will be a desirable trend moving forward and can help leasing agents and center owners replace some of the lagging rent payments.
The health practices of wearing masks, better practices in hand washing and social distancing have actually reaped very beneficially in general health. An open outdoor space allows for those behaviors we’ve adapted to continue.
Retail leasing agents and shopping center owners may be looking at their current spaces to determine designs that will amount to a better retail experience. Benefits to open space to consider include outdoor areas for events and concerts. A public open space designed mindfully and artfully can also be an Instagram worthy hot spot, a place to relax, and to socialize. Due to the pandemic, many outdoor spaces became waiting or eating areas. A new open outdoor concept could be developed to incorporate areas for outdoor eating or a space specifically designed to hold a queue of people.
Outdoor public spaces increase foot traffic, especially if there is a reason to go. For example, University Place in Orem, Utah cleared out the anchor space where the old Mervyn’s used to be and created an indoor/outdoor play area and large outdoor plaza to provide plenty outside space for farmer’s markets, magic shows, outside art galleries, and a water and light show synchronized to song.
Shopping centers may rely on these open spaces to continue prosperpering, recognizing that brick and mortar retail needs to be a place people go to for an experience.
Once the work is done to have a beautifully designed outside space to draw in customers, the next step will be to take a look at those stagnant vacancies. True, people will be drawn to the outside space, but they may not stay if the shops are undesirable or non-existent. Add to your agenda a virtual demo to discover how you could fill your retail vacancies with desirable and expanding retail tenants.