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This Mall Will Have a Spa, Café, Pool and Restaurant - All in a Former Anchor Store

Developer Calls It a Healthy Lifestyle Village That May Be the Future of US Malls
October 8, 2018

Life Time this spring opened a massive athletic resort outside Houston. The company is now building its first resort inside a mall in space once occupied by a big-box department store.



A novel project under construction in a vacant department store is being hailed as the future of the mall.

When it opens next year at Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota, the three-level, 120,000-square-foot "athletic resort" will feature a full-service rooftop restaurant and beach club, a swimming pool, a healthy cafe, a spa and a salon in space once occupied by a JCPenney’s that anchored the mall. That former retail area will also include coworking space, a children’s academy and exercise rooms.

"It’s a gutsy thing," said Stephen Dombrovski, senior associate at Suntide Commercial Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. "Things like this are truly the future of retail."

The project is the brainchild of Bahram Akradi, founder and chief executive of Life Time, a Chanhassan, Minnesota, company that operates 138 fitness centers in the United States. Life Time, which bills itself as a "healthy way of life company," is developing the project with Simon Property Group, the nation’s largest mall operator. Simon owns Southdale Center, which is about 10 miles southwest of Minneapolis.

Life Time is building similar projects at Brea Mall in Los Angeles and Phipps Plaza in Atlanta, two other Simon properties, according to Simon’s 2018 development report.
Akradi has long sought to transform retail shopping centers into what he calls "healthy lifestyle villages" where people can shop, live, work, exercise and visit their doctor.

"Our focus is to develop all-inclusive destinations that encompass the full spectrum of daily life," he said.

The company earlier this year opened athletic resorts in Cypress, Texas; Fort Worth, Texas; Burlington, Massachusetts; and Princeton, New Jersey. Those feature many of the amenities at Southdale but are larger, stand-alone facilities not connected to shopping centers. They range in size from 164,000 square feet to 248,000 square feet.

Life Time plans to open another athletic resort in a former Macy’s department store next to Quail Springs Mall in Oklahoma City on Oct. 11, but the Southdale development is its first inside a mall.

Life Time operates 138 fitness centers across the country, including this one in Colorado.




Mall operators must do whatever they can to captivate shoppers and lure millennials who favor pedestrian amenities, convenience and "urbanism," said Scott Bowles, general manager of Provo Towne Centre in Utah.

There’s also a practical side for projects that can fill large swaths of dead space once occupied by big-box retailers.

"Say you have a Sears or Penney’s box, maybe 180,000 square feet, what do you do with it?" said Bowles, who added that Provo Towne Centre managers have discussed adding a fitness facility to their tenant mix. "That list gets shorter and shorter, and filling that space requires a lot of innovation."

Consumer preferences increasingly run toward fitness facilities and wellness clinics in malls and shopping centers.

Forty-seven percent of consumers preferred malls with health and wellness center tenants such as a dental office, massage therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture and a walk-in clinic/pharmacy, according to a new survey by WD Partners, which offers strategic services to retailers.

Dombrovski, who shopped at Southdale when he was a kid, said it was the country’s first enclosed shopping mall when it opened in 1956. Its founder, Victor Gruen, always envisioned the mall as a mixed-use development with housing, schools and medical facilities. Gruen died in 1980.

He was disappointed that his vision never came to fruition, he added.

"His whole vision for Southdale was for it to be a community place," Dombrovski said. "It’s so ironic that it’s happening now."

Simon recently opened a 146-room Homewood suites on the property and built a 232-unit luxury apartment complex there that opened in 2015.


Rob Smith, National Retail Reporter  CoStar Group   
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