Woodbury's CityPlace is a mall of the future. Here's why
The mall for the internet age is unfolding in Woodbury.
The 100-acre CityPlace project is a winners' circle for the survivors of online competition, with the real-life losers conspicuously absent.
The design was driven by a fresh look at what a mixed-use project should be, said Juan DeAngulo, partner with the Miami-based developer Elion.
"We look at the fundamental uses," he said — which are not the uses that customers made of shopping malls in the past.
CityPlace, at the southeast corner of Interstate 94 and Radio Drive, expresses these internet-driven trends:
• The classic mall anchors, especially department stores, have been pounded by online competition. At CityPlace, there are no classic anchors.
• The small number of retail stores reflects what can't be sold online. Mattresses and fine jewelry, for example, are products that customers like to touch before buying, which is why they are sold at brick-and-mortar stores in CityPlace.
• The single-purpose shopping-only mall is fading away, because the internet has decimated retail stores. That's why about half the space at CityPlace is devoted to work and jobs.
• It's difficult to buy fast food online, which explains why CityPlace has five fast-casual restaurants, similar to Chipotle.
• Services can't be sold online. That's why almost one-third of the CityPlace retail locations are services, including a cooking school, exercise studio, bank, nail salon, barbershop and medical offices.
• There are no vast plains of parking. Parking requirements are set by the size of the store — the bigger the store, the more parking is required. But the internet has hurt the bigger stores. The smaller stores at CityPlace share parking spaces, so the lots are smaller, giving the development a more cozy, less desolate feel.
CityPlace's recipe for success in the internet age has been recognized nationally.
CallisonRTKL, an architecture and design firm with 20 worldwide locations, recently mapped out the ideal "mall of the future." It sketched a center with a hotel, an organic grocery, a cooking school, multiplex theater and a small amount of retail.
That almost exactly describes CityPlace. It may not have a theater, but one is being built at the Woodbury Lakes mall next door.
Dave Brennan, professor of marketing at St. Thomas University, said the new mall reflects the overwhelming reality that more people are shopping online.
The Pew Research Center reported that about 80 percent of Americans shopped online in 2016 — up from 22 percent in 2000. About 15 percent shop online at least once a week.
In contrast: Tamarack Village
To see the difference the internet has made, look across Radio Drive from CityPlace — to 20-year-old Tamarack Village.
That mall is thriving, albeit with a different design.
"Tamarack Village is, pound for pound, one of the most successful malls in the entire state," said Kelly Doran, one of the owners of the mall and owner of Doran Management, which manages Tamarack Village.
Its 59 businesses include four anchors — Home Depot, Cub Foods, JCPenney and Dick's Sporting Goods. About 58 percent of the businesses are retail, and another 17 percent are food stores.
There are two banks and one chiropractor's office, but no exercise studios, cooking schools, office buildings or hotels. Customers park in large parking lots, massed together in front of the stores.
Tamarack has hosted some of the ghosts of retail past — Mervyn's, Circuit City, HomePlace and Media Play. All the empty spaces have been filled with new tenants.
Like most big malls, Tamarack is geared toward convenience, said professor Brennan. Shoppers usually shoot into the mall for a single destination and leave quickly.
"There is very little cross-shopping," he said. Almost no one walks from store to store, said Brennan, discovering new shops along the way.
CityPlace, on the other hand, is built to replicate an urban neighborhood — with jobs, stores, services and shopping piled together.
"It's not going to be attractive if you can't walk to lunch," said developer DeAngulo, "or have a guest come in and walk from the hotel."
The traditional anchor stores may be ailing, he said, but Whole Foods will serve as one when it opens this year. Medical offices will serve the same function, bringing in hundreds of workers and patients each day to drive past the food stores and shops.
While Tamarack Village is dominated by clothing stores, CityPlace will only have one — Nordstrom Rack, opening in April.
Why it works
Elion Partners bought the 100-acre CityPlace property in 2013. It had been developed as a regional headquarters by State Farm Insurance in 1996, but the company vacated the property in 2006. Elion tore down the building in 2015 and 2016.
DeAngulo didn't design CityPlace specifically for Kristy George, but he could have.
George is a Woodbury mother of five who works out four times a week at a studio called CycleBar.
"I thought it would be extremely boring," she said, "but after the first time I was hooked."
For her, it fits perfectly in the "post-internet" shopping/working center.
After exercise, she often picks up meals at one of the restaurants. "I stop at the bagel place or for coffee," she said. Or she browses through the kitchen tools at Sur La Table, next door.
"When Whole Foods opens, I will be there on a regular basis," said George.
CityPlace does not sell what she buys on Amazon.
"I'm shopping all the time for books," said George. She shops online for clothing and for Christmas presents.
The owners of the shops also like the post-internet environment.
Mackenzie Holm sells exercise — another item you can't buy online. Holm, the CycleBar manager, said that the owners shopped around when deciding where to open the state's first CycleBar franchise.
They considered a traditional mall location, with its department and big-box stores and oceans of parking. They turned it down, in favor of CityPlace.
Holm said that while the big stores are languishing, the foot traffic at CityPlace will always be strong because of the restaurants. That fits well with the business model of the spin studio, as people come for a workout and pick up a meal on the way home.
The CityPlace designers were smart, she said, not to re-create another mall from an earlier era. "People are ordering everything," said Holm, "online."
What's at CityPlace?
Open: Sur La Table, Einstein Bros. Bagels, La-Z-Boy Home Furnishings and Decor, Piada Italian Street Food, Caribou Coffee, Verizon Wireless, Bank of America, Wedding Day Diamonds, Cafe Zupas, MattressFirm, Chuck & Don's, Spire Federal Credit Union, CycleBar, Naf Naf Grill, Tu Nails, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Residence Inn by Marriott.
Closed: Pie Five Pizza Co., which opened in November 2015, closed in March when the parent company decided to focus on other markets.