North Jersey Malls Reach a Crossroadsby Joan Verdon
Sixty years ago, when the first malls arrived here, they changed the landscape of North Jersey, replacing celery fields and woodlands with stores, food courts and parking lots. Now, new forces are at work altering the terrain of traditional suburban shopping centers. The industry group International Council of Shopping Centers says America’s malls are undergoing the biggest transformation in their six-decade history. Next week, the council will unveil an initiative to examine and redefine the mall as developers, shopping center owners and the retail real estate industry gather in Las Vegas for their annual convention. The council will look at eight groundbreaking ideas, including using parts of shopping centers as distribution sites for filling online orders, as well as ways to bring residential, hotel and office uses into the mall. “This is an industry that is constantly evolving,” said ICSC spokesman Jesse Tron. The shopping centers that will thrive in the future are those that are “willing to push the envelope to try what’s new,” he said.