Project Management Institute

The mall life

a new kind of mall presents project managers with a more complex stakeholder environment

Hudson Yards project in New York, New York, USA



Attention, shoppers: The traditional mall—enclosed and anchored by major department stores—is receding into history. No new enclosed malls have been built in the U.S. since 2006, and as many as one-third of the 1,200 malls now standing are either shuttered or in danger of closing.

Popping up in their place? “Lifestyle centers” that promise much more than just shopping—and present project leaders with new types of challenges. These mixed-use spaces are characterized by an outdoor setting, specialty stores, high-end dining, and residential and entertainment options. The US$20 billion Hudson Yards project in New York, New York, USA, probably the largest of the new mall breed, will feature a seven-story shopping center, 4,000 residences, restaurants from Michelin-star chefs, office towers, a public school and 14 acres (6 hectares) of open public space. (It's slated to open in 2018.)

With a wide variety of tenants—e.g., retailers, residents and restaurateurs—lifestyle center projects pose more complicated stakeholder landscapes for project teams. “When developing a traditional mall, you have multiple users with their own agendas, but they are all retail-, dining- and entertainment-driven,” says Karen M. Scott, senior project manager, Skye Group, Orlando, Florida, USA. The organization focuses primarily on shopping center project management and tenant coordination. “Mixed-use projects are more complicated because all the uses have different requirements. They do not always easily coexist.”


“Mixed-use projects are more complicated because all the uses have different requirements.”

—Karen M. Scott, Skye Group, Orlando, Florida, USA

For example, both residents and retailers want parking, but creating separate parking that serves each can be expensive. Similarly, most residential tenants want quiet, while live music and other noisy entertainment is a selling point for some lifestyle centers. A slew of other issues, from the location of loading docks to odor control in restaurants to alley width, can create planning challenges for project leaders.

These next-gen mall projects aren't all new construction, though. A US$200 million project approved for predevelopment in May will essentially turn a mall in Burlington, Vermont, USA inside out. The Burlington Town Center will convert from a traditional enclosed mall to a mixed-use space better integrated with the surrounding city—in other words, into a shopping center that lives up to its name.

To deliver promised benefits, project managers will have to keep in mind what makes these new malls appealing to shoppers.

“Mixed-use is not easy to do,” says Ms. Scott. “In traditional malls, you don't have the intensity of so many uses in one area.” —Donovan Burba

Around the world, project sponsors are delivering big and bold new destinations to shoppers.

Mall of Qatar,
Doha, Qatar
Selling points: The 500,000-square-meter (5 million-square-foot) mall will feature 500 shops, a five-star hotel, a miniature children's city, and an oasis area featuring restaurants, fountains and live entertainment.

Budget: US$1.4 billion
Opening date: August 2016

Doha Festival City,
Doha, Qatar
Selling points: In addition to 400 shops, the mall will have an Angry Birds theme park, an F1 simulator and a snow park.

Budget: US$1.6 billion
Opening date: February 2017

Two Rivers Mall,
Nairobi, Kenya
Selling points: As the largest mall in East Africa, it will include two hotels, residential apartments, an office park and a dolphinarium.

Budget: KES25.2 billion
Opening date: 2016

Wuchang Center,
Wuhan, China
Selling points: A terraced tower featuring retail, residential and office space with a “vertical garden” concept will be the centerpiece of the 4.8 million-square-meter (52 million-square-foot) mixed-use project.

Budget: US$700 million

Opening date: 2020

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