Developers are throwing out the old playbooks as they renovate Central Florida malls, bringing in new tenants and consumer-focused technology.
UP Development plans to transform Orlando Fashion Square this year, and not just with new stores. Construction should start soon on a new six-story hotel, Element by Westin. The only other Central Florida mall with a hotel is Florida Mall, which caters to tourists.
Orlando Fashion Square also will have an 18,000-square-foot arcade and bowling alley, with a sports bar and a shake shop featuring Hershey's ice cream.
UP Development will operate the arcade and is a partner in the company that will run the hotel.
Already, kids are playing basketball in a court installed in middle of the mall. Look for another one or two courts in the near future.
"We're getting creative," said Jared Ettinger, an associate with Berkshire Realty, which is helping with leasing at the mall. "It's been a fun project."
Such entertainment venues are helping to attract more men, especially dads, executives with UP Development said.
Orlando Fashion Square is trying to reach out to the community more. It has entered into a marketing partnership with the Orlando Magic, which is having basketball clinics and other events at the mall. It is also handing out free bottles of water to mall walkers.
Meanwhile, the mall plans to install interactive kiosks, and start a program in which customers can download coupons for individual stores on their smartphones. It recently tested kiosks in which customers could obtain the coupons and upload pictures of themselves onto social media.
"I think the customer has changed," said Scott Fish, a principal with UP Development. "The generation behind us is much more tech savvy. They're looking for something that's much more interactive."
As customers turn more to online shopping, malls are trying to add more than stores to attract people, said Steve Kirn, executive director of the University of Florida's David F. Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research.
"You see more dining options, more entertainment options, you're seeing things that create the shopping place....as a social and cultural hub, not just as a place that has a bunch of stores," Kirn said.
As anchor Saks Fifth Avenue prepares to close at Florida Mall, that center is creating a new glass-enclosed food hall in its place. And over on north International Drive, Festival Bay's new owner is remaking it into a bazaar and farmers market called Artegon Orlando. The project has run into delays. But Paragon Outlet Partners, which is redeveloping the mall, said Artegon should open by Memorial Day.
When completed, the $70 million project should include an indoor farmers market and a collection of stores, stands and kiosks in which artisans will sell their work. Paragon Outlet Partners says Artegon will be one of the largest indoor bazaars in the U.S., with 250 to 300 artisans selling crafts and specialty gifts. Festival Bay's anchors, including Bass Pro Shops, will remain part of Artegon.
Paragon said a planned complex within the mall will include a skate park, tutoring center, digital-arts classroom, restaurant, lounge area and store.
As shoppers use their phones more, retail centers are trying to accommodate them. Florida Mall, owned by Simon Property Group, will provide faster, more complete Wi-Fi coverage this year. Simon late last year introduced location-based apps at Florida Mall, Seminole Towne Center and Waterford Lakes Towne Center.
Those apps can notify shoppers about lunch offers and other deals when they are close to certain malls.
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Bright spots: Retailers that cater to luxury shoppers are poised to perform well, said Steve Kirn, executive director of the University of Florida's David F. Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research. That means good news for upscale Mall at Millenia. And low-end retailers such as dollar stores also can expect to see strong sales, Kirn said. So can home-improvement retailers, since housing starts are up.
Storm clouds: Mid-priced retailers will still have to fight for customers. "If you're in the middle, it's not a really good place to be," Kirn said.
Trends to watch: Retailers will continue to offer shoppers lots of opportunities to spend their dollars – on their computers, their phones and in the store. Expect more user-friendly digital experiences and more options such as free shipping if you pick up your items in a store.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun