The list evoked a lot of reaction, which I had expected, and so I'm reproducing it here for anyone who hasn't seen it already. Remember though that the list is not meant to represent the best-performing, or the biggest centers, or even personal favorites (although a couple of them are). It's about centers that were influential well beyond their own trade area and their own time by pushing the shopping center concept in a new direction. See what you think.
1. Southdale Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (opened 1956). Created by Victor Gruen, Southdale was the world’s first climate-controlled mall, made possible by engineering breakthroughs in air conditioning technology. Southdale was also revolutionary because it brought two competing department stores into the same property. These “anchor stores” were separated by the entire length of the mall, which consisted of an enclosed pedestrian walkway lined by specialty stores. The modern regional centre was born.
2. Potomac Mills, Woodbridge, Virginia (opened 1985). With over 1.5 million square feet of gross leasable area and 20 anchor stores, Potomac Mills was a pioneering “value megamall." By combining large entertainment anchors with numerous big box stores and value- and full-priced specialty retailers, Potomac Mills merged and expanded the regional mall, factory outlet and entertainment centre concepts at a single stroke . Not resting on its laurels, the centre has led another trend in recent years by hosting the off-price units of several large department store chains, including Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales which have all set up outlet shops there.
3. Easton Town Center, Columbus, Ohio (opened 1999). Not the first town centre development in the shopping centre era but industry analysts, including this one, believe it brought the concept to a peak that has probably not been bettered anywhere. Developed by Steiner + Associates, Easton has a retail GLA of about 1.5 million square feet that includes more than 150 specialty stores and restaurants, one upscale department store (Nordstrom) and one moderate department store (Macy’s). The centre does an immaculate job of combining alfresco dining, shopping, open-air community space and architectural design features to achieve an authentic sense of place and an outstanding shopping experience. Among other things Easton also boasts a 30-screen cinema, three on-site hotels with 559 rooms and 800+ units ranging from studio apartments to three-bedroom townhouses.
4. The Lab/The Camp, Costa Mesa, California (opened 1993 and 2002 respectively.) The twin inspirations of clothing designer Shaheen Sadeghi, these two centres face each other across the same suburban street that hosts the much better known Goliath of shopping, South Coast Plaza. The Lab “anti-mall” has 50,000 square feet of floorspace and The Camp “eco-retail campus” has 60,000. Both centres have only about a dozen tenants each, which are focused on apparel suited to the lifestyle of the immediate neighbourhood and restaurants with fanatical local devotees, such as The Camp’s vegan “Native Foods.” Both centres have unique layouts and design features, stores that occupy eccentric shapes, and a vibe that speaks directly to an unconventional segment of the local market.
5. K11, Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon), Hong Kong (opened 2009). K11 is the brainchild of Adrian Chang. K11 departs from the humdrum in so many ways it's impossible to catalog them all. For example, while plonking an art gallery into a shopping centre has become a bit of a fad lately, only K11 has seamlessly interwoven two- and three-dimensional art into the very fabric of the mall so that it is part and parcel of the shopping and recreation experience. K11 has also walked the walk when it comes to community involvement, leasing to an unusually high percentage of independent retailers and operating several design stores of its own in the mall that source exclusively from local producers, designers and artists.
If my list were to be extended to 10, then other centres that could make the cut are some of Steve Tanger's early outlet centers, Country Club Plaza in Kansas City (opened in 1923) and Ayala Malls' Greenbelt center in Manila, which is important for demonstrating how a well-executed open-air center can work brilliantly in a tropical climate.