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Parks, Recreation Centers, and Redeveloped Malls: Community Glue

Caroline Wu
Jan 27, 2024
Parks, Recreation Centers, and Redeveloped Malls: Community Glue

In the spring of 2023, the surgeon general released an alarming report about the epidemic of loneliness in the US, which has negative implications on our physical, social, and emotional health such as “a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults. Additionally, lacking social connection increases risk of premature death by more than 60%.”  Among his six recommendations to combat this, the number one idea was to “Strengthen Social Infrastructure: Connections are not just influenced by individual interactions, but by the physical elements of a community (parks, libraries, playgrounds) and the programs and policies in place. To strengthen social infrastructure, communities must design environments that promote connection, establish and scale community connection programs, and invest in institutions that bring people together.”  We’ve written at length about how malls are becoming one of the old-but-new gathering places for Gen Z and how pickleball is a new craze that has been bringing people together.  Let’s take a look now at how some parks and recreation centers serve their communities as well as the vision for one mall redeveloper, who held town halls and numerous local meetings in order to understand the needs of the community.

First up is Brooklyn Bridge Park.  This 85- acre park resides on the Brooklyn side of the East River in New York City. It has revitalized 1.3 miles of Brooklyn’s post-industrial waterfront.  Among its many offerings are playgrounds, athletic fields, a roller-skating rink, fitness equipment, kayak and canoe launch sites, and basketball, bocce, handball, and beach volleyball courts.

Source:  City Parks Alliance

There’s certainly a seasonal element to park visitation, with visits increasing into the spring and peaking in the summer.

Late afternoon into the evening tends to be when most people visit the park.

It appears most visitors enjoy their park outing with hamburgers, some shopping, pizza, and ice cream with Shake Shack the top destination before and after visiting.  

While Educated Urbanites and Young Urban Singles make up the majority of segments, the park attracts a broad range of additional segments, ranging from Ultra Wealthy Families to Urban Low Income. Another fun fact about this park is that it is financially self-sustaining, due to the fact that 10% of the parkland was set aside for development, which sustains 90% of the park’s operating budget.

Brooklyn segments

Speaking of Brooklyn, we now turn our attention to a Dallas-based developer, Peter Brodsky, who originally hails from Brooklyn. He purchased the Redbird Mall in South Dallas in 2015 and incorporated much community feedback to understand what the residents in the area wanted, such as jobs, health care, grocers, restaurants, and a Starbucks. It’s currently under development as The Shops at RedBird, and incorporating trends we’ve highlighted in previous Anchor articles, such as mixed-use, with a new apartment complex on the grounds of an ex-parking lot; a Courtyard Marriott hotel to follow; two health care providers--Parkland and UT Southwestern-- taking over Dillard’s and Sears further reinforcing our bullishness on malls and healthcare; and on the second floor a call center operator that employs two thousand workers with plans for more. Below, we show a birds-eye view plan for this exciting new development. Plus, there is a one-acre lawn for community events.

Source: Omniplan

Like almost all malls, these shops saw a dip during the pandemic, but since then traffic has perked up.

When we look at year-over-year change from the surrounding zip codes, we see a fair amount of growth coming from the south and the farther western direction.  

Using Jan 1, 2023 as a baseline, the overall shopping center as well as some of the major tenants like Starbucks, Burlington, and Foot Locker show a positive trend.

In fact, among all the Starbucks stores that Placer tracks, this Starbucks location at Redbird ranks #5 in traffic for the year 2023.

In more exciting news, there are also plans for a Tom Thumb grocery to open up at this shopping center.  We will keep an eye on this development for sure as more tenants and office/residence/hospitality opens up.

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Caroline Wu

Director of Research,

Caroline brings expertise in retail, CRE, entertainment, media, CPG, and tourism, and specializes in synthesizing broad datasets into actionable recommendations for growth. She has worked as the US Director of Consumer Insights at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, VP of Retail Insights and Intelligence at Omnicom, and Senior Director at Kantar. Caroline holds an MA in Sociology from Stanford University and a BA in International Relations from Stanford University.

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