It's not easy being a shopping mall these days. On Tuesday, developer Hudson Pacific Properties announced plans to turn most of Westside Pavilion into office space. Only a small fraction of the mall will still be used for retail.
Hudson Pacific plans to spend over $400 million dollars on this joint venture with current owner Macerich and to complete construction in 2021. Long term, the partners hope to attract tenants in entertainment and technology.
This announcement is part of a larger trend. Shopping malls are making drastic changes in the name of survival. Anthony Dukes, professor of marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business, explains why the reimagining of Westside Pavilion is not a surprise:
It's consistent with a broader trend across the country with respect to malls. We've seen malls being closed across the U.S.
Westside Pavilion, I think, is in a fortunate situation in that it is still in a dense area. It's not like a lot of the struggling malls across the U.S. that are in more suburban, more distant areas.
The rise of online shopping contributed to this trend.
Online shopping in general is an important factor, because as people become more comfortable shopping online, many of our purchases can be done online, and we don't have to physically go into a store like we used to.
Amazon gets a good bit of credit because they were one of the first online retailers, and they helped pave the way and [gave] consumers confidence that they could buy things online.
But not all shopping malls are getting smaller or disappearing. In fact, some are moving in the opposite direction, reinventing themselves to focus on the experience of shopping.
If you look at some of the malls across L.A., such as the Americana in Glendale and Westfield Century City, and even the Grove, they offer something that online can't, which is a shopping experience. So, what you can't get online is a trip with your friends or your family to experience the shopping process, to visit Santa, to take in a movie or a cup of coffee or dinner.
That you can't get online. I think that what some of these malls are recognizing is that if they provide those sorts of alternatives, people will come and enjoy those and spend their money there.
Dukes anticipates that, in the future, malls will continue to shrink or grow, and will not look much like they did a few decades earlier.