Malls Aren’t Going Away. Enabled By Technology, They’re Becoming Modern Community Cornerstones
Attracted by beloved national brands and food chains, people once gathered in malls across the nation to socialize and shop, making them the heart of many American communities.
The retail landscape, however, continues to undergo seismic shifts. Although mall traffic, sales and occupancy rates are trending up as they recover from pandemic lows, traditional shopping malls don't have the same popularity they did in the 1980s, 1990s or 2000s. This is largely due to changing consumer preferences and the steep and sudden rise of online shopping.
Mall owners and developers are being forced to either evolve with the times or face falling behind.
Getting creative with solutions to restore malls to their former glory, developers are reimagining them to include medical offices, apartment units, recreational spaces and, most importantly, advanced technological features such as high-speed fiber internet.
Boosting Local Economies
“Fox Valley in Aurora, Illinois, is one of many shopping centers in the redevelopment process and is already seeing success,” said Scott Samson, senior general manager for Fox Valley, which is owned and operated by Centennial. “Once its redevelopment is complete, Fox Valley will serve as a community hub with everything from traditional retail stores and restaurants to new residential facilities and community gathering spaces that host cultural events.”
The addition of these new amenities will bring in more revenue and help promote economic vitality, Samson said. It also creates an ecosystem that nurtures creativity, encourages entrepreneurship and drives economic innovation in the community.
No new and improved shopping center should be redeveloped without the inclusion of advanced technology infrastructure, as it is no longer something patrons want; it’s something they demand, Samson said.
Comcast recognized this trend early on and has brought fiber and its suite of Comcast Business and Xfinity residential mobile, internet and video services to malls across the Chicago area, including Fox Valley, as well as in other locations nationwide.
“The inclusion of tech amenities such as fiber internet is resulting in a more personalized in-store experience that patrons desire, whether it’s contactless payment features or improving the ability to take online orders,” said Sean McCarthy, Comcast regional vice president of business development and strategic initiatives. “This will help boost the local economy as well as bring a more seamless experience for mallgoers.”
Vibrant Community Spaces
Centennial has delivered a 304-unit luxury residential apartment community at Fox Valley called Lumen that includes a central gathering space and amenities such as a game room, social lounge, 24-hour fitness center/yoga studio and a pool with hotel-style cabanas.
In addition to Lumen, which opened earlier this year, Centennial has also broken ground on a second luxury apartment community at the mall that will feature a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units. The five-story building will be a 212-unit senior housing development offering independent living, assisted living and memory care services, all of which will have fast and reliable WiFi.
McCarthy said that Xfinity Communities, the multifamily division of Comcast, will be providing its managed WiFi service to the units and common areas.
“Our biggest goal with the redevelopment of Fox Valley was to create a space that people don’t just need to go to but that they want to go to,” Samson said. “Shifting the priority of this space to a variety of community experiences will allow us to expand our offerings to Aurora's residents and visitors.”
McCarthy added that as Fox Valley and other malls across the country continue to install the latest network technologies during redevelopment efforts, businesses will be able to provide platforms for community engagement.
“These platforms will connect residents to stores and all of the other tenants within the property via interactive digital displays, community apps and social media, which will all help facilitate communication, participation and collaboration,” McCarthy said.
Technology Creates Efficiency
A critical part of mall redevelopment is the integration of supporting technology solutions right from the start, McCarthy said. This approach means that as malls reopen, businesses will have readily available tech solutions. This strategy doesn't just fast-track progress — it also means businesses don't have to deal with the headache of setting up separate networks.
“The technology solutions installed during redevelopment are key ways for these modernized spaces to ensure long-term efficiency,” he said. “Integrating technology creates opportunities for smart and connected mall environments, allowing for more efficient operations, data-driven business insights, personalized shopping experiences and improved customer satisfaction.”
He added that it enhances convenience, accessibility and engagement, making malls more attractive to businesses and visitors alike.
Outside of improving efficiency in time and space, technology can also help to create a more sustainable building. McCarthy said that technology installations in redeveloped malls often incorporate sustainable and energy-efficient solutions, ultimately reducing the space’s environmental impact and promoting eco-friendly operations.
Embracing The Future
As malls continue to be revitalized, they are moving into an era where tradition meets innovation and where community hubs transcend their former glory, Samson said. The repositioning of malls as modern lifestyle centers, intertwined with technology from the outset, signifies an evolution of what it means to live and work in a community.
“By staying ahead of technological advancements, malls can adapt to evolving consumer preferences, drive economic resilience and continue to be hubs that enhance the overall quality of life for residents,” McCarthy said.
This article was produced in collaboration between Comcast and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
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