ATHLETIC FACILITIES LOOKING TO FILL RETAIL VACANCIES December 2, 2020 | CRE News , Investment , Management | building renovation , real estate trends , retail space , special purpose facility The commercial retail sector has faced considerable challenges for some time, and the recent Covid-19 pandemic has only hastened its slow decline. In fact, (REIS) Moody’s Analytics shows that mall vacancies have reached an all-time high of nearly 10 percent as of September 2020. With so much real estate sitting unused, property managers and community leaders are researching ways to spark new life into the local economy. Dumbbells and Dollars For the past few years, a popular option to fill empty storefronts has been converting them into gyms and wellness centers. Abandoned malls offer the perfect blank canvas with enough square footage and clear space to install equipment. The location of these shopping centers is another reason they’re highly sought after. Most are next to highly trafficked areas, which means passersby will be more likely to stop in and sign up for a membership. The Growing Need for Space Prioritizing health and wellness has become common among Americans, with almost 60 million belonging to some sort of exercise club. With numbers steadily rising, it only highlights the need for quality commercial space. However, the issues that many businesses run into are the ones seen everywhere: adequate space and funding. And within larger cities, trying to find the perfect combination of these two for sports complexes can be almost impossible. Renovating Inside and Out Old malls not only provide endless renovation opportunities inside, but outside has potential as well. Along with providing tons of free parking, larger tarmacs offer the chance for expansions and additions to the current building. They also allow for the prospect of holding outdoor events or expos to attract even more customers. Southridge and Genesis In Des Moines, Iowa, plans are underway for a $14 million project to turn two former department stores at Southridge Mall into a fitness hub. Current blueprints for the new Genesis Health Club at Southridge include a gym and basketball courts, with the intent to add a pool and even a soccer field in subsequent phases. Along with several other businesses, from a satellite community college campus to a medical clinic, the revamped Southridge’s goal is to be an all-in-one location for locals. Symbiosis, Shopping and Sports While some of these new facilities are going into fully abandoned strip malls, others are looking to close in on retail properties that still have some life. The goal here is to attract consumers already visiting an established business in the vicinity--in other words, to cash in on foot traffic with a previously established track record. Additionally, the way your local mall used to look could be completely different in light of gyms moving in. You’re likely to see bays fill with more athletic wear, supplement and personal care retailers. The food court, once filled with pizza, burger and Chinese food vendors, may start housing healthier restaurant options (think salads and smoothies). Strengthening Community For smaller communities, shopping malls are an integral part of their town’s identity. Local leaders hope that repurposing retail centers can uplift residents and regain lost revenue. Access to high-quality fitness facilities can be rare in smaller cities and rural areas, making the experience of belonging to one feel that much more exclusive. Plus, sporting venues provide citizens the chance to interact with each other and form close-knit bonds they may not have had a chance to form otherwise. The Outlook Originally, store owners were wary of the idea of people entering their stores fresh off the treadmill or weight machines. But their perception of potential consumers has changed drastically as they continue to face the challenge of competing with online retailers. With the multi-billion dollar fitness industry, many property managers are recognizing the unique and promising potential of athletic centers. Schedule Your Commercial Inspection With NPI NPI inspects thousands of commercial properties every year, identifying issues that can save you thousands. Whether you’re buying, selling or renting out your commercial building, schedule your NPI inspection today .