MELBOURNE – Enclosed shopping malls aren’t being built these days, as shoppers tend to favor so-called open-air “lifestyle” centers versus the traditional, department store-anchored shopping malls.
Melbourne Square mall, sandwiched between two newer lifestyle centers — Hammock Landing in West Melbourne to the southwest and The Avenue Viera to the northwest — though has no plans to go gently into that good night of retailing. In fact, it’s not planning to go anywhere at all.
Melbourne Square, which opened in 1982, is adding a new tenant mix, upper scale restaurants and, an LA Fitness health club, plans to open later this year.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in foot traffic,” said Elyse Berger, Melbourne Square’s marketing and business development director. “It’s always exciting to bring new things to market.”
Melbourne Square, was formerly owned by the Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc., the country’s largest real estate investment trust. In May, Simon spun off several properties — including Melbourne Square — to became part of the Washington Prime Group Inc., overseers of 98 regional shopping centers and community lifestyle centers (53 million square feet total) across the United States.
A sliver of that — about 1 million square feet — belongs to Melbourne Square.
The mall’s strategy of offering shoppers a different tenant lineup is the correct one, says Steve Kirn, executive director of the University of Florida’s Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research, and other traditional malls are doing the same.
“No one is building any enclosed mall anywhere in the United States,” Kirn said. “So enclosed malls are looking for ways to reinvent themselves.”
New tenant mix
In the last 18 months, Melbourne Square has been able to attract Red Ginger, which for years operated a successful restaurant in Suntree before opening its second location at the mall; Rodizio Grill, a Brazilian steak house chain based in Denver, opened its 16th location — its second in Florida — last month.
This fall, H&M, one of the world’s largest fashion retailers, plans to open a 16,000-square-foot store at the mall.
LA Fitness, which opened a health club on Lake Washington and Wickham roads last year, is scheduled to open a 36,000-square-foot “state-of-the-art facility” later this year next to Dick’s Sporting Goods. The LA Fitness will include an indoor basketball court, a 25-yard indoor lap pool, locker rooms, saunas and “Kids Klub” babysitting.
“I’m excited we’re getting a lot more things there because we have more people moving here,” said Kevin Hill, an Indialantic-based Realtor who many years ago worked at Ivey’s, a former department store chain acquired by Dillard’s Inc. in 1990.
Hill said when she moved to Brevard County from Kentucky in 1982, shopping opportunities were slim. Merritt Square mall was operating but Melbourne Square had yet to open its doors.
Forced to change
Look no further than the Florida Mall in Orlando about malls being forced to adapt to change.
Just last week Crayola said it would open a 70,000-square-foot Crayola Experienceattraction at the Florida Mall mall next summer, using up a sizable section of the soon-to-be-closed, two-story Nordstrom space. Included with the attraction is 25 family-friendly “artistic activities” as well as a large collection of Crayola products.
The Florida Mall, and Melbourne Square’s addition of new restaurants and LA Fitness, are good examples of business adaptability. The goal is drawing a mass of people for one reason or another, to a location for one reason or another and then they’ll stay and shop.
Two years ago, for example, Melbourne Square began working with the organizers of Space Coast Fashion Week, an event put on by the Melbourne Regional Chamber of East Central Florida that included a model model casting call at the mall.
Don’t be surprised to see concerts and other community events in the future, Kirn said.
“The question for mall operators is: What is your particular draw?” Kirn said. “If you’re the Florida Mall, or Melbourne Square mall, or whatever, you do some things that give locals another reason to come see you.”