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It’s a Mall World After all

While enclosed malls undergo an evolution in the U.S., they continue multiplying abroad




THERE HASN’T BEEN much U.S. mall space built since the 2008 financial crisis. In 2019, the last “big mall” with 3 million square feet of retail and sports entertainment opened in New Jersey.

U.S. enclosed malls, anchored by department stores, continue to dwindle, particularly in the suburbs. Current mall counts vary from around 1000 to 700, down from a high of some 2500 decades ago. Experts think more will close over the next three to five years due to oversaturation and accelerated e-commerce. (Interestingly, between 2016 and 2019, Amazon turned two dozen malls into fulfillment centers, according to NBC.)

It’s a Mall World  After all

And at least one big city mall is in limbo: In San Francisco, owner Westfield (Sydney) transferred management of San Francisco Centre to its lender in October when Nordstrom announced it would close following other high-profile tenant exits. Yet a new Eataly unit in nearby Westfield Valley Fair boosted sales by 66 percent in the developer’s Silicon Valley center.

With 16 U.S. centers, Westfield is tiny when compared with Simon Property Group (Indianapolis), the country’s largest mall operator with 196 properties – including malls, outlets and lifestyle centers. (Simon made headlines in early February 2024 for its third quarter results, reporting stronger than usual operational metrics, such as a 95.8 percent occupancy level at its premium outlets and malls as of Dec. 31, 2023.)

It’s a Mall World  After all
Last July, in a think-outside-the-box-move in Grapevine Mills (Grapevine, Texas), Meow Wolf (Santa Fe, N.M.) opened “The Real Unreal,” an interactive art experience in a 40,000-square-foot former Bed Bath & Beyond.


It’s a Mall World  After all

Meanwhile, Macy’s (New York), the country’s largest department store group, is regrouping after closing 125 “least productive” units. Macy’s is exiting malls and following customers to lifestyle centers, a preferred venue. Market by Macy’s, a “boutique-sized store for top brands,” will relocate to some former Bed Bath & Beyond locations (more than 900 have closed). Macy’s Backstage, its off-price concept, will expand to more strip centers where parking is free and easy.

As the U.S. bulldozes and redevelops old centers with new restaurants, services, art installations and public event spaces, China’s mall scene is multiplying. At the end of 2022, the country had 6700 centers, each more than 30,000 square feet. At least 400 more were expected to open last year.

One of those was a new development, Xisanqi MixC One – an 860,000-square-foot shopping center designed by CRTKL (the architecture, planning and design firm now part of Arcadis) in the Xisanqi subdistrict of Beijing. Opened last May at the Zhongguancun Science Park, the seven-story structure is home to more than 240 shops alongside automobile showrooms, cinemas, restaurants, art and water features and entertainment zones.

It’s a Mall World  After all THIS PAGE: The Xisanqi MixC One shopping center in Beijing houses more than 240 stores and offers restaurants, cinemas and showrooms. 📷 Yihuai Hu, Shanghai

The building’s L-shape creates a welcoming entrance at the intersection, while three concave glass surfaces form an inviting door. Its triangular glass curtain walls create a glass prism, while the glass skylight allows natural light to illuminate the center’s atrium. Greenery surrounds the atrium, and arc-shaped winding corridors on each floor invite visitors upward. A water curtain hanging from the second-floor bridge guides flowing water to an underground garden. The top-floor dining area offers patrons panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.


Like the U.S., China has an overabundance of retail space. While the pandemic and online shopping have hurt mall traffic, Chinese mall owners are reimagining their product too – vacated space has morphed into yoga studios, gyms, cooking schools, EV showrooms, virtual reality experiences and art museums.

📷 Yihuai Hu, Shanghai


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