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The Evolution of Shopping Malls

The nation’s first modern indoor shopping mall opened in 1956. The Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota was the first of its kind, expanding upon the single-level, outdoor shopping center style that was popular at the time. The new 2-story layout featured a large atrium with a skylight, escalators, plenty of parking, and controlled temperatures. Shoppers grew to love the environment this type of center created, eventually leading to the popularity of the modern shopping mall.

By the late ‘80s, enclosed shopping malls had grown to reach around 3,000 locations within the U.S, which has driven them to their current state. Naturally, existing within an oversaturated market has led to the decline of shopping centers. Not only are brick-and-mortar malls competing with one another, they are also fighting the popularity of online shopping.


This isn’t to say that malls are dead, even though you can find plenty of articles that will tell you this is the case. Shopping malls are facing an evolution, just as they did in 1956. Owners are veering away from the term “mall” and we’re seeing more popularity in names such as “shoppes,” “village,” and “towne center.”  These new names are accompanying renovations, changing the mall environment to fit that of today’s consumer.

According to CNBC, via Jones Lang LaSalle, over the last 3 years, 90 regional malls have spent over $8 billion on renovations alone, with 20% removing “mall” from their official title. This is allowing for consumers to partake in more than simply shopping, with renovations including more food and beverage, entertainment, lodging and residential, and community activity options.


CambridgeSide, originally CambridgeSide Galleria, has finished a $30 million renovation. The retail center is now part of a 1.2 million-square-foot mixed-use development minutes from downtown Boston. Acting as a centerpiece to this development, the shopping center has an opportunity for revitalization. The interior renovations have brightened the 1980s architecture, mimicking the style of the surrounding area. Cambridge is a cutting-edge tech-hub, home to Google and HubSpot. The original brass detailing within the interior was no match for the beautiful city, filled with state-of-the-art buildings and high-end condominiums.

Synergi was thrilled to install the new railing systems within this shopping center. ICSC states that, “Transparent railings now stand in for the former brass ones, creating more-open sight lines, and seamless glass helps showcase the storefronts.” The new system is a large leap forward from the original brass designs, benefiting the shopping center in more ways than one. Not only does the system contribute to the modern and sleek design, pleasing consumers, but it also allows for upper level tenants to be easily seen from the first floor, allowing for the opportunity of increased revenue.

Along with the new railing system by Synergi, CambridgeSide also received upgrades to tile flooring, LED lighting, seating areas, Wi-Fi capabilities, and gathering spots. These renovations, along with a comprehensive rebrand, has positioned the retail mall front and center, ready to take on the evolution of the shopping center and the changing consumer traits and behaviors. We’ve come a long way since 1956, and shopping malls are no exception.



Garfield, Leanna. “25 Incredible Photos Revealing the History of America’s First Modern Shopping Mall.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 2 Aug. 2017, www.businessinsider.com/first-shopping-mall-us-southdale-center-history-photos-2017-8/#gruen-later-regretted-the-whole-project-which-was-not-as-anti-car-and-pro-pedestrian-as-he-had-hoped-16.
Thomas, Lauren. “Malls Ditch the ‘M Word’ as They Spend Big Bucks on Renovations.”CNBC, CNBC, 24 Oct. 2017, www.cnbc.com/2017/10/24/malls-ditch-the-m-word-as-they-spend-big-bucks-on-renovations.html.
Johnson, Ben. “Boston’s CambridgeSide Gets $30 Million Worth of Love.” Boston’s CambridgeSide Gets $30 Million Worth of Love | ICSC: International Council of Shopping Centers, www.icsc.org/news-and-views/sct-magazine/new-england-developments-cambridgeside-gets-30-million-worth-of-love.

Posted by Theresa Admiraal on January 16th, 2018

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