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How One Baltimore Design Firm Is Helping Revamp The Retail Experience

The retail apocalypse is crushing suburban malls, which are losing key stores and have trouble attracting new ones.

Bayshore Town Center in Milwaukee before it was redeveloped

Adding more experiences, placemaking and mixed-use developments will revitalize dying malls, according to inPlace Design Principal Dustin Watson. The five-person Baltimore architecture, planning and design firm is using these guidelines to assist mall redevelopment projects throughout the world. The company also has a satellite office in Jakarta, Indonesia, that employs 10.

“Malls are fading away as they're losing anchors,” Watson said. "We have to revitalize and put some new life into them."

At Bayshore Town Center in suburban Milwaukee, a New York developer demolished the former Sears store and part of the mall that connected to it as part of its makeover plan.

Bayshore Town Center in Milwaukee

In its place, Olshan Properties will add 75K SF of retail with Total Wine & More and other national tenants.

"[The developer] took a tired old mall with a sea of parking and created a vibrant community center,” Watson said. InPlace Design served as the design architect for the preliminary concepts. Watson also worked with the mall during his previous job with DDG.

A rendering of the redeveloped Ridgmar Mall in Fort Worth, Texas

After losing two major anchors, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus, Ridgmar Mall in Fort Worth, Texas, needed a plan to reinvent itself. Owner GK Development last year began a multi-phase renovation of the property, including a $3M remodel of Cinemark Theatres and the addition of H&M, relying on inPlace Design as the design architect. A 27K SF aquarium will open later this year at the mall, whose makeover will also include a central park that serves as a gathering place.

Adding an event space where bands and other outdoor performances can take place helps draw people in and make them stay longer.

“We want to create meaningful experiences,” Watson said. “That’s our push on some of these projects. We're looking at ways to create a third place where people can socialize [so] customers stay there longer."

Courthouse Center in Rockville

Closer to home, inPlace is working with Federal Realty Investment Trust on creating façade improvements, new amenities and signage at Courthouse Center strip mall in Rockville.

“We want to give it some life and make it nicer," Watson said.

Inside inPlace Design's new Clipper Mill office

InPlace recently moved into a nearly 2K SF office at Clipper Mill, where it shares space with Metropolitan Studio and Splice Design Group.