Creativity is key to filling vacant retail space. Trampoline parks have added a bounce to vacant, dark grocery stores, while colleges and ambulatory care facilities have added life to vacant mall spaces. While dinner cinemas, bowling alleys, museums and other entertainment business remain the popular space fillers, service businesses are rapidly replacing traditional in line spaces. The service business now accounts for at least 70 percent of tenants. Department stores and big box tenants are slowly accepting these new unconventional tenants as the landscape for retail continues to change.
The retail business is all about creativity and innovation, and the industry is seeing a metamorphosis right now. Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust's centers attracted the up-and-coming medical operations in different regions. The operators want an exclusive location to promote their brand and also want exceptional visibility. The medical community desperately wants to become more visible to the public eye, and they are willing to pay for it. Medical tenants will pay as much, or more, per square foot as the top retailer for the opportunity to lease high-profile spaces. With medical centers becoming popular in class A buildings, aging neighborhood centers are being re-purposed as space for trade schools, churches and call centers.
A new wave of innovative re-users is starting to emerge in the retail pool. In Texas, influential business are moving into the market and moving into previously hard to lease space. Foreign chains are making their way into the market by ramping up expansion plans and boosting overall demand. With these new adaptive tenants, non-retail tenants are becoming perfectly acceptable in shopping centers now. The lesson to remember is to always be flexible.