Mall Retrofits

Sizemore Group has successfully worked with communities to re-envision and retrofit struggling to dying malls. Scroll down to learn more about recent case studies. Click here to view a white paper written by Bill de St. Aubin which details our mall retrofit opportunity and process.

Cumberland CID Blueprint & Green TOD:

Smyrna Baseline Connecting Cumberland CID & the Atlanta Braves Battery:

Perimeter Center CID & Perimeter Mall:

Stonecrest Mall:

Our first engagement with major regional mall retrofits began with the State of Georgia’s first and perhaps most successful Community Improvement District, the Cumberland CID. This CID is home to Cumberland Mall, several Fortune 500 companies, and it is where over 5 percent of the entire state’s economy and 33 percent of the county’s economy is generated. While they’ve demonstrated great success in infrastructure and commercial development, the area suffered from lack of housing and regional high-capacity transit. The Cumberland area was originally planned as a sort of Corbusian dream at the intersection of I-75 and I-285 along the Chattahoochee River with 3 miles of national park space. While interesting to move through, it was not a town nor a place. Its primary elements were office parks, a mall and exhibition center, and a relatively recent additions like a world-class performing arts center.

We were commissioned to master plan the entire 3,000-acre area in the early 2000’s to attract transit connectivity and redevelopment of old strip centers into an exciting, mixed-use, urban experience. Our process demonstrated how a transit oriented mixed-use redevelopment would reinvigorate the CID’s under-utilized Akers Mill Shopping Center. Unfortunately, the Akers Mill owner later concluded they would not be willing to redevelop or sell. The project stalled, however, the seeds were sewn for well-planned future experiential redevelopment in the Cumberland CID. Within five years, the Atlanta Braves bought a nearby parcel and built a new stadium and town center called the Battery.

In 2016, we were engaged by the adjacent City of Smyrna to retrofit a gateway corridor into the new Battery, with its surrounding mixed-use, experiential retail development. This mixed-use component keeps the area interesting and active all year long, even where there is no baseball game or performance happening. While the Battery itself is compelling, pedestrian and cycle access from Smyrna is negatively impacted by a major 6-8 lane road and highway. To mitigate the negative impact, Cumberland CID has been building trails below the highway and pedestrian bridges above, separated as the Corbusier Vision specified so long ago. To expand on this and further improve connectivity, Sizemore has planned The Baseline. The concept is a one-mile elevated path in the style of the High Line in New York or the 606 in Chicago, with four quarter-mile legs connecting the Battery to other elements within the Cumberland area. An elevated trail is a unique, safe experience that begins to fulfill the Corbusian vision, expanding the pedestrian and cycling experience in new and innovative ways to urbanizing centers.

The Perimeter Community Improvement District is a dense suburban area just north of Atlanta, home to Perimeter Mall, with four transit stations connected to the world’s busiest airport. Perimeter Mall is performing well in comparison to many others like it, and CID leaders proactively seek innovation to maintain their success. Sizemore Group led a Livable Centers Initiative Study of the area, which is a program orchestrated by the Atlanta Regional Commission that blends market studies, transportation analysis and master planning for the benefit of livable centers (defined as areas of activity that exhibit development patterns consistent with walkable livability).

Our research helped the community identify exactly what they wanted and needed out of the area around the mall so the CID can position the area for continued success as suburban areas are expected to adopt urban principles of livability and connectivity. As part of this study, we recommended the CID leadership focus on block size to transform the mall into a city center. Since mall foot prints are too large for traditional, pedestrian-friendly urban street grids, implementing these measures would improve the pedestrian experience, urbanize the environment and improve connectivity to the transit stations. Another recommendation that will help align this area with these principles involves focusing new demand in transit villages around stations. Finally, we recommended adding missing public and green spaces such as improved sidewalks, additional bikeways, trails, parks and other elements that support connectivity, walkability, livability and the civic realm. With these improvements, the area is better connected to transit, and connected to the mall, rich in public realm. Since the completion of our study, corporate vision has met community vision, and the CID has attracted the $1 billion headquarters of State Farm Insurance Company, which employs 8,000 people in the Atlanta region.

Over the past 50 years, properly located regional malls tended to evolve into regional centers that attracted office and other out parcel development around the periphery of the mall. This was the intended case in the development of Stonecrest Mall, yet the area was missing the adequate regional connectivity, office demand, and growth that are necessary to attract offices as secondary development. The graded parcels meant for office parks and other uses around the mall were left vacant, and nearby hotels struggled to survive. Because this complimentary use was missing, there was little traffic during the week in the area, even though the mall was performing well on the weekends. With no demand on the horizon for office or even housing, we began to explore other options in partnership with Gibbs Planning Group. Large, level, empty land has many uses, so we evaluated the viability of performing arts centers, regional convention space, mixed-use development and more. None of these were in high demand nor would they simulate activity for the mall. To gather community input, we hosted an in-mall charrette. We learned that the community really wanted this to become “the place to be.” They were looking for a multi-use destination that offered transportation alternatives and created jobs. Somewhat unexpectedly, we also learned that the community was under supplied in soccer fields. The team recommended a regional sports complex with soccer fields and supporting uses on these parcels.

Now known as Atlanta Sports City, the second largest multi-sports complex in the southeast is preparing to add a sports medicine pavilion in partnership with Emory University Hospital. In recognition of the experiential economy, ownership is also preparing to invest nearly $50 million into a sports-themed pavilion connecting the mall to Sports City that will include around 250,000 square feet of restaurants, retail, attractions and green space.

The development will create 1,900 jobs, attract 3 million annual visitors, and generate $105 million in economic impact to the county, $97 million to the state and $80 million in food and lodging. In the process, Stonecrest became a new city. Mayor Jason Larry, who was deeply involved in our planning, recently said “it is our salvation.”