Abandoned Malls That Could Become Multifamily Developments

July 9, 2020

Abandoned Malls That Could Become Multifamily Developments

July 9, 2020
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Abandoned malls are on the rise thanks to a paradigm shift that’s been recently accelerated by COVID-19. Shopping habits continue to favor online retailers, forcing regional shopping malls across the country to shutter.

In 2019, a record of over 9,000 individual retailers closed their doors for good, according to Coresight Research. Traditional regional shopping mall anchors like JCPenney, Macy’s, Gap, Charlotte Russe, Bath & Body Works were hit hard, and 2020 is expected to be far worse.

Thankfully, industrious developers are already getting creative, turning these multimillion-square-foot echo chambers into value-generating assets.

Here are three more abandoned or nearly empty malls that could begin a new life as innovative multifamily developments.

Regional super malls, once thriving centers of community and commerce, lay dormant in 2020. (Source: Wikimedia Commons).

Fiesta Mall (1.2 million SF) – Phoenix, Arizona

Back in the 1980s, Fiesta Mall was the retail jewel of the metro’s burgeoning East Valley suburbs; public concerts at the mall (including an appearance by Avril Lavigne) once drew thousands of attendees. Significant competition in the early 2000s pushed the mall to the brink until it finally was closed permanently in 2018.

Today, the surrounding submarket continues to experience strong annual rent growth thanks to the ongoing influx of jobs and people moving into the metro. The former mall’s location next to a major highway also highlights an opportunity to meet the demands of commuters and service industry renters alike.

Compared to adjacent apartment construction hotspots, like North Tempe, South Mesa is far from overbuilt. Just 5% of the submarket’s apartment stock was built in the last five years. Occupancy in the submarket has also remained stable since last year, up 50 basis points to 96.2%.

South Mesa Submarket:

  • Market Effective Rent: $1,046 (Class A Properties: $1,345)
  • Effective Rent Growth: Up 6.6% YOY
  • Median Household Income: $49,396
  • Up 5.4% YOY

Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills (1.1 million SF) – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Once a chief rival to the still-standing King of Prussia mall and one of the largest malls in the state, the 1.1 million-square-foot Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills saw a major decline in foot traffic starting in the mid-2000s. Following the departure of one major anchor after another, the retail space closed for good in 2015.

The former mall now sits just 20 minutes away from Pittsburgh’s East End, a new development hub focused on residential construction and job growth along Pennsylvania Avenue. Also nearby are a multitude of golf courses, country clubs, and nature parks.

The presence of new development and long-standing, high-end amenities reflects the unique advantages to transforming the Galleria into a multifamily mixed-use development. Situated adjacent to state highway Route 28, the mall’s location will become even more valuable as the Pittsburgh metro continues to build eastward.

North Submarket:

  • Market Effective Rent: $1,094 (Class A Properties: $1,559)
  • Effective Rent Growth: Up 1.2% YOY
  • Median Household Income: $69,858
  • Up 2.6% YOY

Forest Fair Village Mall (1.5 million SF) – Cincinnati, Ohio

Forest Fair Village originally opened in 1989 and went on to survive multiple bankruptcies, renovations, and rebrands. The shopping mall’s final decline began in the mid-2000s until all but a pair of tenants, Kohl’s and Bass Pro Shop, vacated the mall by the start of 2018.

The decline of traditional retail aside, the surrounding submarket has earned a reputation for being one of the metro’s most attractive areas to do business. Corporate tenants operating in the area include Cincinnati Financial Corporation, Skyline Chili, Pacific Manufacturing and Koch Foods.

Butler County has been recognized for its business-friendly policies that encourage corporations to establish a long-term presence in the community. The Fischer Group, a manufacturer headquartered just five miles from the former mall, recently announced plans to add 400 jobs to the submarket over the next five years.

The submarket also boasts the metro’s third-highest median income and third lowest percentage of residents employed in high-risk industries. These trends emphasize the potential to transform the mall into an innovative residential space that fits the needs of the metro’s growing workforce.

Butler/Warren Counties Submarket:

  • Market Effective Rent: $1,027 (Class A Properties: $1,455)
  • Effective Rent Growth: Up 5.1% YOY
  • Median Household Income: $75,879
  • Up 3.4% YOY

Creativity and experience have never been more valuable commodities in the commercial real estate industry. Those very qualities have allowed Berkadia to continue serving our clients as we navigate the unexpected together. Reach out to us today to learn more about the unique opportunities on our radars for the second half of in 2020.

*Apartment fundamental data (effective rent, income, occupancy etc.) provided by Pyxis