Dec 12, 2023 - News

Shopping malls transform into entertainment hubs

Illustration of a mall directory with new stickers all over it describing attractions

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Going to the mall is no longer just for browsing stores and grabbing a snack at the food court.

What's happening: Shopping malls across the country are adding lifestyle experiences and off-kilter attractions, along with coworking spaces and company offices, to draw in consumers in the age of e-commerce, Axios' April Rubin reports.

Why it matters: The entertainment options popping up at Columbus-area malls in recent years could be vital to keeping our shopping centers afloat.

State of play: Mall vacancies nationwide are at their highest level in over 15 years, according to a November report by JLL, a real estate services company.

  • Companies that focus on experiences actively sought retail space in malls this year, the report said.

Flashback: Easton Town Center took a risk by embracing the open-air "lifestyle center" concept when it opened in 1999 and has since proven to be one of our area's most successful destinations for shopping, dining and entertainment.

The latest: Polaris Fashion Place, Easton's enclosed rival, opened in 2001 but has debuted several non-retail tenants more recently, such as indoor sports facility FieldHouse USA, coworking space COHatch, Big Air trampoline park and All In Adventures escape rooms.

Meanwhile, the struggling Mall at Tuttle Crossing opened Scene 75 entertainment center in 2019, featuring a roller coaster, go-karts, batting cages, laser tag and more inside a 225,000-square-foot former Macy's.

Of note: Easton and Polaris have traditionally had high occupancy rates while Tuttle has had difficulty keeping up, especially after the pandemic, per local news reports.

What we're watching: While Tuttle's remaining tenants are mostly discount stores and traditional retail, the mall is under new ownership of three investment firms — Namdar Realty Group, CH Capital Group and Mason Asset Management — and there's speculation that its tenant makeup might change.

  • "When national retailers move out, Namdar Realty and Mason try to replace them with nontraditional tenants such as call centers, local small businesses, doctors' offices and bounce-house venues," the Wall Street Journal wrote in a lengthy November profile.
  • The firms did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Columbus.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Columbus stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Columbus.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more