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Dark Malls

Dark malls can be hidden within existing office buildings. They are a retail destination exclusively discoverable online. Visitors aren't there for the 'experience', they're there with a clear and efficient purpose - to efficiently do what they need and leave.

Why is it that tall commercial buildings in the US are for office space but seldom for retail showrooms, entertainment destinations and convenience services?

With the stagnant low occupancy rates in CBDs across the country, now is the time to rethink the tenant mix. Customers today overwhelming search for businesses online, whether it's through Google, Instagram, Tik-Tok, or review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. Walk-ins on account of passing foot-traffic is far less common today than a customer discovering a business online.

The vertical mall prioritizes digital lead generation, bulk-buying advertising and investing in influencer promotional campaigns for its' tenants.

In my 20+ years of working in CBD office buildings, very, very, very, very rarely have I had any interaction with another tenant other than the ground floor cafe. Why is it that physical proximity of complementary businesses is rarely leveraged?

Digital masterplanning provides the framework to create the connection.

Here are some examples to create a thriving vertical city:

  • Digital technology - while tenant building apps is a step towards creating a connected ecosystem, facilitating thriving commerce is not their priority. Landlords should develop a strategy to facilitate commerce for its' tenants, connecting them to local customers.

  • Retail showrooms - customers already know about the business's products through their online search. Their visit is less about meandering, window shopping, and experiential retail, it is more about serving a clear purpose for the customer visiting the location.

  • Childcare - there’s an extreme shortage of affordable childcare. Creating more high quality and centrally located childcare solutions remove a barrier for working parents in returning to work from the office.

  • Bars & karaoke - the novelty of discovering a speakeasies and hidden laneways adds to the experience. With influencers and guides like Time Out dictating what's cool, customers can be directed to find entertainment inside the building - it does not need to be on the lobby level. This can happen after hours. It is not uncommon in Asian cities.

Landlords that expand their services beyond the provision of space, and into lead generation will be able to tap into their tenants' marketing budgets.

Future-forward real estate players, understand that the necessity to embrace the digital economy is paramount. With relationships between leasing teams and tenants already established, there is an opportunity to expand the service offering further into the digital space.


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