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CRE Opinion

Run-of-the-Mill Retail Won’t Work. Times Square is What We Want

One-dimensional retail and hospitality experiences no longer cut it.

Once upon a time, the mall provided excitement, a scenery backdrop for life where actual shopping occasionally occurred. As a teenager, I worked at North East Mall, selling jeans and living the indoor shopping dream. But people have changed, because technology and hyper-media experiences have raised our expectations. Spencer’s Gifts and the arcade next door will no longer get us out of the house. A wall of televisions won’t do it. A TV the size of a skyscraper—that might do it.

Mike Kennedy

The expectations for the level of excitement, of color, of engagement have risen exponentially. It takes the engagement of Times Square to get us off of our Netflix couch, and that’s the future of gathering, shopping, and dining.

Technology can separate us behind our screens, but it can also draw us out. The Legacy West development thrives by pulling people in and providing an engaging urban experience, with a well-planned retail street by Gensler where one can “see and be seen.” Legacy West, similar to Times Square in New York, engages us at a higher speed.

In a world of social media moments, if you’re not heading to a place to snap a selfie and send it to your Instagram followers, then you won’t be buying a steak dinner or a dress or anything else there. We now demand a self-validating backdrop for our personal narrative to get us to venture out. That’s why we installed a massive LED screen by the pool at our Marriott Delta Hotel in Allen, along with mind-bending art pieces. Otherwise, why not just order food from the couch and shop on our phone, with Game of Thrones playing in the background?

What’s the story behind the shopping bag in your hand? Behind the new shirt on your back? What’s the narrative? “I bought somewhere between Dillard’s and JCPenney’s” doesn’t register any more. We still crave group experiences, and places that engage us will reap the rewards.

I recently helped broker the sale of the Collin Creek Mall property in Plano. A relic of the past, it has become open canvas for a community in East Plano that craves a place that engages and excites. If the new developers deliver the excitement and complexity that our brains now crave, people will get off the couch—wallets in hand. Just like in the good old mall days.

Mike Kennedy is a senior vice president at Avison Young.

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