Editor's corner

I got my start in the business world with real estate development back in the early 1970s. Our family-owned company was developing residential subdivisions and shopping centers and malls. I obtained my Certified Shopping Center Manager (CSM) designation from the International Council of Shopping Centers and oversaw the development of a number of shopping centers and malls in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Just to date myself a little, we developed and owned a shopping center that was only a few miles from Three Mile Island nuclear power plant when there was the nuclear leak there. I have seen the shopping center industry evolve. Mini-malls came and went. Festival marketplaces developed. The power center concept with a concentration of the big box stores developed. And of course there were the perennial enclosed malls.

Now that I think back on the shopping center's evolution, there were really no new concepts that got me excited. Yes, festival marketplaces, such as Faneuil Hall in Boston and Harborplace in Baltimore were cool places to visit, but still, they weren't that exciting by themselves. A lot of their vitality was drawn from their settings on the harbor or their vibrant downtown locations. Power centers serve a function, but are very inhuman places. You really couldn't even walk from store to store. They're just a bunch of stores in the middle of an asphalt desert. And enclosed malls evolved and got a little fancier and bigger. Food courts evolved, and cinemas became parts of the mall rather than freestanding buildings. But they were still just malls. These mammoth structures with no exterior appeal (the exterior of most airports are more attractive) and constructed interior environments were rather inhuman, as well. Sometimes they made better walking trails for seniors in the morning than a place where you really wanted to hang out (unless you were a teenager).

Yet, despite addressing the need for truly friendly and inviting human environments, these forms of shopping complexes survived and prospered, fed by an increasingly affluent society's quest to acquire material goods.

And then all of sudden (the change has probably occurred over less than five years), things changed -- or should I say the consumer changed, and with it, retailing. Department stores lost their appeal. The public started to crave something better than the mall and power centers, and a few developers figured it out and created the lifestyle center.

I've visited a number of the better lifestyle centers (there are a number that really aren't great, it's a learning curve for the industry) including Kierland Commons in Scottsdale, Arizona, Otay Ranch Town Center in Chula Vista, California, and The Legends at Village West in Kansas City, Kansas. I live in Kansas City, Missouri, where we have the original and still thriving first lifestyle center, The Country Club Plaza, that was started back in 1922, although no one knew until recently that it would be classified as a lifestyle center. These lifestyle centers are places you enjoy visiting for shopping, dining or entertainment. They are human. They have landscaping and trees and fresh air. They are great places to just stroll through. They are great leisure destinations.

As promised last month, this issue's article, Death of the mall, welcome to the new landscape of shopping experiences, discusses how lifestyle centers are transforming the retail destination paradigm in America by offering leisure destinations rather than shopping destinations.

This month we also have an article about Monaco Pictures, which is transforming movies to a "going out leisure experience." We also recap some of our current projects.

We hope you enjoy reading this issue. And if you are in the northern hemisphere, stay warm now that winter has arrived.

Randy White