New at the mall: An apartment so you never have to leave
Published Thursday, August 1, 2019

An increasing number of shopping malls — which already offer movie theaters, food courts and shops that sell everything from luggage to underwear — want to keep you there around the clock with apartments in their unused parking lots.

Malls in South Florida are entering into real estate to keep you shopping and literally living at the mall, and at the same time turning empty parking lots and surrounding land into money-making ventures.

In the latest example of what some experts say is a growing trend, developers filed plans Monday afternoon in Coral Springs to build “Metropolitan at Coral Square” — a tower of more than 200 rental apartments at the Coral Square mall.

The eight-story building wrapped partly around a swimming pool will be built on a 5-acre piece of empty land north of the Sears parking lot on the north end of the mall, fronting Ramblewood Drive.

As shoppers use online retailers such as Amazon instead of traditional brick-and-mortar stores, developers say not as much space is needed anymore.

“Retail is changing so rapidly that the way consumers shop is changing and inevitably [there is] space in parking areas for re-use,” said Kim Briesemeister, one of the co-directors of Redevelopment Management Associates. “Re-use is a good opportunity for building within an already built-up environment.”

And, she said, “you don’t want a sea of parking not being used. And the best use is residential.”

She said the idea of building homes on empty space is “marrying the things that make up a great urban pedestrian environment — people can walk to get to those stores.”

Ira Teicher, a Miami lawyer who represented a developer building hundreds of apartments at the site of a mall in Massachusetts, said malls that are defunct, or close to defunct, are searching for ways to stay in business.

“Think of the typical shopping mall, not just vacancies, but a ton of land around it that’s not needed,” he said. “Developers have realized some of these sites are prime for redevelopment.”

He sees the trend continuing as big-box retailers look to downsize as their online sales pick up steam.

“Land is valuable; they’ll get repositioned,” he said of the malls.

In South Florida, it’s happening over and over.

In West Palm Beach, Related Cos. has proposed a 21-story residential tower on the site of a five-story Macy’s left empty in 2017 at Rosemary Square, formally known as CityPlace. The residential project will have 325 rental apartment.

In Boynton Beach, a plan is pending to build hundreds of homes, as well as offices, more stores and restaurants, at the Boynton Beach Mall’s 108-acre site. Scores of stores have closed or moved from the mall within the last few years, including the Disney store, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Bucca Di Beppo, Littman’s Jewelers and Sears.

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