Reimagined retail experience drives vision at local mall

Julie Rohm

The mall industry has always been one that is constantly evolving as the popularity of retail brands ebbs and flows and retail property owners are strategically seeking new offerings to reimagine the mall experience and put anchor spaces to more dynamic use.

A thoughtfully curated and diverse tenant mix is the future of retail real estate, offering unique experiences and social outlets, in addition to in-demand retail. The new age of retail boasts everything from dining to fast fashion, off-price, health and wellness and grocery offerings. In particular, fitness and entertainment are two experiential segments significantly reshaping the look and feel of traditional malls. And Valley Mall is a perfect example of a full-blown metamorphosis underway.

In 2016, 19 percent of the US population belonged to some type of health club — up 26 percent since 2009, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, which represents the industry. As health and wellness continues to improve its ranking, these offerings, including boutique facilities and full-service gyms, have seen steady growth nationally and are playing an important role in transforming retail centers into more diverse leisure destinations.

The recent announcement that Onelife Fitness will open at Valley Mall in Hagerstown underscores this. Valley Mall has been a prime example of the portfolio-wide remerchandising efforts of its owner, PREIT. As the dominant enclosed regional mall within 30 miles of a four-state market, Valley Mall is a key suburban DC asset for the Company. Following the closure of Macy’s and PREIT’s proactive recapture of
Bon-Ton, PREIT re-envisioned the use of the anchor space at this property to bring in exciting new entrants to the market including fashion department store Belk and new experiential tenants, including Onelife Fitness, which will occupy 70,000 square feet when it opens in late 2018 and Tilt Studio which will also open later this year. The fitness center will offer innovative, community-focused, convenient and affordable wellness options, including indoor and outdoor pools — an exciting addition to the community.

PREIT and other mall owners, are reshaping the mall experience with entertainment offerings as well including movie theatres, escape rooms, karaoke and kid-friendly activities, to name a few. Across PREIT’s portfolio, apparel tenants make up less than 37 percent of occupied space, with dining and entertainment coming in at 20 percent and growing. Tilt Studio will offer Hagerstown residents a new, interactive social experience that includes indoor rides, bowling, black light laser tag, black light golf, arcade games and space for parties, groups and private events.

PREIT has been driving change at Valley Mall for the past several years, with the addition of national tenants H&M, Pandora and Torrid, and numerous restaurants to cater to nearly 1,000 hotel rooms within a half mile. And the transformation of Valley Mall is ongoing – Regal Cinema will undergo a remodel introducing luxury reclining seats in a stadium seating format.

As retail real estate leaders continue to reshape properties for the new age of retail, success lies in diverse, thoughtfully selected tenants that enhance the convenience and experience for consumers. Malls are on their way toward becoming destinations for more than retail — they are also social hubs and centers of health and wellness, dining and entertainment.


Julie Rohm is the general manager of Valley Mall in Hagers-
town, Md., which is owned and managed by Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT).