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Mall Footfall Returns, Dick’s and At Home become ‘Alt Anchors’ and Placemaking Takes Root

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Dick's Sporting Goods and At Home are a perfect traffic drivers in prime, anchorless malls

Analytics firm Placer.ai reported that traffic in a 52-mall sample was up 86 percent over March, 2020. And while that still lags March 2019, mall owners believe we are in rebound mode. What is unknown is how long the pent-up demand will last. And as my colleague Pam Danziger recently reported, a survey of 1,000+ consumers by Nielsen noted merely three in ten consumers expect to do more in-store shopping in the months ahead. That said, Placer.ai marketing VP Ethan Chernofsky indicates that preliminary foot traffic for April looks encouraging.

Anchor Alternatives

While the downfall of many malls has been tied to a decade-long department store contraction, developers of leading malls have been hard at work replacing these moribund retailers with new, in-demand specialty players. Besides theatres, fitness retailers, and even grocery stores there are several categories that are in growth mode, among them sporting goods and home furnishings. Ironically, these are both product segments that the traditional department stores used to do well with.

As I’ve reported, RH

RH
(the former Restoration Hardware) is planting some of their gargantuan Design Galleries smack-dab in the parking lots of some high traffic A-malls. Edina Minnesota’s Southdale being a prime example. Many malls no longer require the vast parking lots they were “born with” and the real estate value of those prime malls make’s the development of destination brands appealing.  

Another home goods retailer finding accommodations at the malls is At Home. That 226 store home furnishings player is in a major growth mode, with plans to triple its size to 600-plus stores. Their newest unit, the first in New York City is a 100,000 square foot store in Rego Park, Queens. Another, along with Whole Foods

WFM
, will anchor a renovated center at the Station Twelve redevelopment in Amherst, NY.

Dick’s Lives Where Sears Did

In early April, Dicks Sporting Goods

DKS
took the wrappers of their first Dick’s House of Sport, in Rochester New York’s Eastview Mall. The hybrid store concept is heavy on interactive areas for testing equipment and regular instore fitness activities. Later in May Dick’s will open the second such store in the Knoxville TN West Town Mall. Both stores were previously Sears locations.

In my own neighboring Minnetonka, MN Ridgedale Center, the Sears is undergoing a major gut job, in preparation for a new 105,000 Square foot Dick’s store. Dick’s is expected to vacate the 101,000 square foot former Galyan’s store, less than a mile away. Dick’s acquired Galyan’s 47-store sporting goods chain in a 2004, $362 million buyout.

Not only has Dick’s been raiding empty Sears boxes in search of prime mall real estate, but in Chicago, it is taking over a former 50,000 square foot Carson Store, in Starwood Retail Partners’ Chicago’s Ridge Mall.

Plug and Play

My Forbes.com article of last April, entitled Rethinking the Retail Supply Chain At A Time Of Crisis suggested that many existing Sears Auto Centers were ideally sized and located to morph into hydroponic vertical gardens to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to area grocery stores, mere yards away. Apparently, I was not the only one thinking of repurposing these pad structures; so was Elon Musk. Directly opposite the new Dick’s House of Sports in Simon Properties Knoxville, TN West Town Mall, will be a Tesla Service Center, occupying the vacant Sears Auto Center.

This all speaks to the fact the future of the shopping mall is hardly “one size fits all.” Their survival is directly related to their locations, demographics, and the willingness of owners and developers to invest in their renewal. Their futures no longer revolve around storing and selling goods. Unified commerce reassigns these spaces into places of exploration, brand building, socialization, and community. It requires bringing new meaning and a broader purpose to the malls.

Community Placemaking

For the past two decades I have been writing about the inevitable evolution of many of today’s malls into a new “hybrid community form.” My book references a May, 1999 Metropolis Magazine article entitled “The Mall Doctor” where I along with architect Jon Jerde, whose firm specialized in designing some of the world’s premier malls, commented that the future of many of these mall environments may involve repurposing into “living-working-buying environments.” Jon Jerde referred to them as “gigantic placeholders awaiting their real life.”

Such transformation often involves cooperation between public and private sectors. Such was the case in my own neighboring Brookfield Properties, Ridgedale Center. The City of Minnetonka had been having discussions with both Brookfield and anchors JCPenney

JCP
, about selling off parking area to develop housing. This led to a 55-plus apartment building project and an additional 3-acre site, purchased back from the developer by the city of Minnetonka.

Minneapolis based landscape architectural firm Damon Farber was hired to design a community park, bringing a whole new vitality to what was acres of asphalt. This lovely green space, along with the adjacent housing will begin to turn a sterile parking lot into a walkable, people-place that complements the site’s mixed-use. These kinds of initiatives will reimagine the very best malls and centers, insuring their relevance and long-term survival in the era of “New Retail.” It further addresses our changing community needs and priorities.

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Mid-Century Perfection Reimagined In Los Angeles

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living room restored Rex Lotery AIA designed house in beverly hills trousdale 1060 loma

Decades before the “starchitects” and their mega-mansion projects in Beverly Hills and Bel-Air, iconic Mid-Century Modern architects such as  Richard Neutra, John Lautner, A. Quincy Jones, Craig Ellwood, and Edward Fickett were designing timeless homes around Southern California. Their Modernism styles, noted for walls of glass, open floor plans, and post and beam construction, captured the essence of the indoor-outdoor California lifestyle.

The linear and sleek designs many built as custom commissions in the fifties and sixties are perfect in their simplicity. Today, Mid-Century homes that have aged gracefully can boast eight-figure price tags after restoration and expansion. For example, a 4,200-square-foot Malibu property designed by noted Mid-Century architect Edward Fickett is currently listed at $10,000,000. No doubt, Fickett and his contemporaries would gasp at the prices these prized properties are selling for around Los Angeles. If these homes don’t sell before hitting the market (well-kept Mid-Century homes often have a line of patient buyers waiting in the wings), they receive multiple offers resulting in bidding wars.

Meet Philippe Naouri, the sought-after designer and creative director of the Malibu-based Maison d’Artise, who purchased and restored the Fickett home.  A true preservationist, Naouri reimagines and redesigns Mid-Century gems from Malibu to Trousdale to the Hollywood Hills for today’s lifestyle while maintaining the integrity of the architect of record.

“Many people buy these homes and do teardowns since land is so expensive and the existing homes are often under 2,000 square feet.  Developers want the largest house possible on the property, so it pencils out for today’s market,” explained Naouri, who previously made his mark in fashion as a designer of vintage denim apparel for LA Antik Denim before turning his talents and vision to Mid-Century architecture.  

“My way of thinking is to site them keeping the views and make it larger to justify the price point when we put them back on the market. Buyers love Mid-Century, but they do want them with all of today’s amenities,” Naouri said.  Those amenities include everything from state-of-the-art kitchens to the ultimate smart home systems.

A longtime Modernism enthusiast, Naouri, born and raised in France, bought his first Mid-Century home at the age of 18 in Dallas. Part of Naouri’s restoration and redesign process includes restoring or replacing travertine flooring, walnut wood paneling and designing new kitchens and baths. As a steward of these homes, Naouri replaces clerestory windows with double-paned energy-efficient ones while expanding the home’s original footprint yet retaining inherent design integrity.

Mick Partridge of Beverly Hills-based Hilton & Hyland partners with Naouri to market the properties.  Locating and securing architecturally significant properties for Naouri to buy, Partridge, the son of a well-known Los Angeles architect, understands the increasingly competitive niche of the Mid-Century market. As a successful real estate broker, Partridge works with Nouri to reimagine the homes that can be marketed and sold at price points to attract the right buyers who appreciate Naouri’s expertise.  Partridge exclusively markets and sells all of Nouri’s projects. “My office is helping build Philippe’s Mid-Century portfolio as we are doing a lot of architectural sales,” Partridge said.

Naouri is a prolific designer with five projects in Malibu soon coming to market and a Trousdale estate on Loma Vista offered at $20,000,000. In addition, the Kuderna House, an authentically restored Craig Ellwood case study home in the Hollywood Hills, is also on the market at $2,945,000.

Naouri’s next passion project is the famed Chuey House on Sunset Plaza Drive, designed by Richard Neutra, one of the most iconic Mid-Century architects. “I will extend yet keep the original design while building around it and adding a second story and a guest house,” Naouri said, adding, “we will make it alive again.” To reimagine the Chuey House, Naouri worked with the Los Angeles Conservancy, with whom he has close ties. The project is expected to take over two years.

When looking at how a potential project pencils out, Naouri says he is often caught “between my love of the home and the practical financial side.”

“Sometimes, I see an amazing house, and it’s priced too high for what I do, so I pass it on to friends to buy for themselves,” he said. “You must have an exit strategy.”

Assisting with evaluating the financial viability of a project is Partridge with his pulse on the market. “Philippe is considered one of the areas most gifted restoration and builder/developer. His homes are sought after and never stay on the market,” Partridge said.  

As the demand for prime Mid-Century properties continues, expect to see more of Naouri’s inspiring designs the original architects would be most pleased with.


Hilton & Hyland is a founding member of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.

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Landmark La Jolla Estate Surfaces For Sale At $8.9 Million

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english tudor landmark estate  7231 Monte Vista Avenue

A landmark English Tudor-style home in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego has come on the market for $8.85 million.

The storybook home, dating to nearly 100 years ago, was designed and built by noted San Diego architect Edgar V. Ullrich as his personal residence, according to Regin Daniels Rubin of Willis Allen Real Estate, who is co-listing the property with Linda Daniels and Marta Schrimpf. In the late 1920s, it was later owned by Philip Barber, the pioneering New Jersey developer who created the area’s charming Beach-Barber Tract, where the house is located.

Although development of the tract was slowed in the 1930s by the Great Depression, Rubin says the area remains an idyllic area filled with architectural treasures. English, French Normandy and Spanish-style homes designed by celebrated architects such as Ullrich are found throughout the quiet neighborhood, which stretches west of La Jolla Boulevard to Windansea Beach. The combination of pedigree and location has made the Beach-Barber Tract one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in all of San Diego.

“The neighborhood is highly coveted for its historic charm and its proximity to both the ocean and the amenities of La Jolla’s beloved Village area,” Rubin said.

Approached by a brick-lined walkway, the three-story residence has all the trappings of a timeless classic: A steep shingle roof, half-timbering, leaded windows and a whimsical rotunda with a Juliet balcony. Ornate details around the front door create both interest and fodder for local lore.

“Many original details can be found throughout the home, most notably being the sculpture on the home’s front gable showing two monkeys holding the Ullrich family crest,” Rubin said. “It’s said that Edgar Ullrich was commissioned to build many Catholic churches throughout San Diego County, and he often argued with the archbishop about the ‘Scopes Trial’ of that time. These monkeys are said to be a tongue-in-cheek detail that he added to his home’s design as a symbol of his Darwinist beliefs.”

Inside, the main house has seven bedrooms, 6.5 bathrooms and a dedicated office within about 5,250 square feet of space. A vaulted-ceiling living room with stenciled ceilings, a formal dining room and a large family room area among the common areas. The cozy eat-in kitchen charms with its original brickwork. A 400-square-foot guest studio above the detached garage provides additional living space.

According to Rubin, the home has twice been renovated and taken to new heights since being built in 1924.

“The first addition took place in 1928 when Barber hired Ullrich to design a second level to the then single-story, three-bedroom cottage,” she said. “The second (and largest) addition took place in the mid-1970s when the current owners added a third level to the home and three additional bedrooms as well as a sprawling family room with a showpiece fireplace inspired by Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Lodge.”

The property is the latest trophy offering in a La Jolla market that has remained red-hot since mid-2020. According to Rubin, inventory levels at or near five-year lows have kept the market “incredibly competitive” through the first quarter of 2021. Single-family home inventory, in particular, fell 37% year-over-year in Q1 2020, while pending sales and sold homes increased 49% and 22% year-over-year, respectively.

Intense demand for La Jolla real estate resulted in a 26% increase in average price month-over-month (from $2.84 million to $3.51 million) and a 41% increase year-over-year (from $2.534 million to $3.51 million).

“La Jolla’s seller’s market is showing no sign of cooling off as we finished April with record monthly growth,” Rubin said. “These numbers are unprecedented in our luxury market and are making the purchasing process increasingly competitive among active buyers.”


Willis Allen Real Estate is a founding member of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.

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Yes. America Still Has Affordable Homes (Gasp!). Here’s Where They Are

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The beauty of patterns of Washington streets

America’s torrid housing market isn’t showing any signs of slowing down—at least for now.

In April, every home sold in the U.S. had at least 5 offers on average according to the National Association of Realtors, while three-quarters of offers for homes represented by Redfin agents resulted in bidding wars. In some markets like Westchester, NY, homes are for up to 30% over ask with no contingencies and 48% of houses nationwide last month sold for more than their original list price.

One suburban Washington, D.C. 4-bedroom home reportedly recently had 76 all-cash offers within 72 hours of being listed and eventually sold for 70% over asking price.

The current hyper-caffeinated housing market isn’t just isolated to the U.S.

Home prices in 37 of the world’s wealthiest countries comprising the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (a.k.a. the OECD), including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, Turkey, Korea, and virtually all of Europe, rose 7% year-over-year between 2019 and 2020, the fastest pace of international housing inflation in two decades since before the Great Recession.

For Millennial first-home buyers in the U.S., current homeowners and Baby Boomers looking to downsize or pull new-found equity out of their homes, or growing families needing to trade up, all of the panic buying raises two essential questions. How long will the current boom last? And, more importantly for buyers who don’t have the time to wait around to find out, are there any affordable houses in America left?

On the former question, there are mixed opinions on how long the current froth can sustain itself against persistently high unemployment and low wage growth on the backside of the pandemic. But most real estate economists and experts largely agree that the fundamentals of the present housing upswing are strong—unlike the glass house that was 2008 and despite predictions that the pandemically-induced economic contraction last year could force tens of millions of Americans into foreclosure and eviction, triggering another national housing crisis.

The reality is that the opposite happened.

For an American economy that’s still recovering, this is all great news for current homeowners, recent buyers, and investors who’ve gotten in early enough to get a piece of the action on one of the hottest asset classes right now outside of the stock market.

But the panic homebuying has driven up prices beyond most current buyers’ financial capabilities, which in turn is exacerbating an affordability and housing supply crisis that’s been building in the U.S. for years since the Great Recession, particularly among the approximately 5 million Millennials turning 30 every year and entering prime first-time homebuying years.

As to the more important second question: Where are affordable homes in vibrant, stable American cities still available?

It turns out a lot of places—if you know where to look and don’t have to commute every day to a top ten U.S. metropolitan area like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, or Washington, D.C., which fortunately tens of millions of Americans don’t have to any longer in the new remote work normal.

Against most buyers expectations, most of these affordable cities right now are also in some of America’s hottest destinations currently when it comes to everything Millennials and first-time homebuyers want according to real estate experts, including thriving local hubs for food (Louisville), music (Memphis), sports (Pittsburgh), tech (Indianapolis), and jobs (Birmingham).  

What’s ultimately driving affordability in America’s last attainable housing markets are prices that already were reasonable priced in the first place before the pandemic hit, say most experts. As a result, compared with currently super-charged markets like South Florida and Austin that just got tighter and more irrational over the past twelve months, many homes in these cities already were within most first-time homebuyers’ financial limits in the first place despite nationwide housing supply constraints.

“These affordable markets are not necessarily any less competitive than many others around the country. The crucial difference is price point,” says Arpita Chakravorty, a Zillow Economist. “In some of these cities home values are up almost 20% from a year ago, which are some of the highest growth rates in the country and not far off from what we’re seeing in places like Phoenix or Austin. But even with the strong appreciation in the markets on this list, they remain among the least expensive large U.S. metros in terms of home prices overall.”

The new remote work normal is also empowering millions of potential homebuyers to look at cities and neighborhoods that were never on the map before because they needed to commute to jobs in major metropolitan areas. That’s making homes in formerly lesser know cities in the Midwest and South that always had thriving downtowns and sustainable economies before the pandemic some of the best places to invest in real estate after it based on year-over-year appreciation.

“The explosion of remote work has caused many to reimagine what and where they want their home to be,” continues Chakravorty. “So more affordable areas of the country are in high demand as buyers look for homes that offer more room to spread out. That could mean moving farther from a downtown core into nearby suburbs, or from a more-expensive metro to a less-expensive one which is in part what’s driving price appreciation in these smaller, Midwestern and Southern cities. The bottom line is that we are still in the early stages of what we call the Great Reshuffling as many are taking advantage of more flexible remote work policies to rethink where and how they want to live. Some who have been working remotely during the pandemic may be called back to the office. But others will receive firm guidance from their employer of a permanent ability to work remotely and take advantage of that freedom for years.”

As for the future of America’s housing affordability crisis, few are bold enough to predict what comes next. But everyone agrees on the most obvious solution: more supply—particularly when it comes to first-time, women, minority, and immigrant homebuyers.

“More housing is the clearest path to a more balanced market between buyers and sellers,” says Chakravorty. “Ideas like down payment assistance can help, especially for younger generations who are competing in today’s incredibly competitive market with long-time homeowners who have built up equity from the home price gains in recent years. But demand shows no signs of meaningfully slowing any time soon, so without more supply to meet that demand it’s likely that prices will continue to grow at a fast pace and make down payments a bigger and bigger challenge for first-time buyers. Builders are doing their part, but it will take years, if not decades, to catch up from the underbuilding that took place following the Great Recession.”

In the meantime here are fifteen of America’s most affordable cities where home prices still are attainable with some of the most, vibrant up-and-coming cultural, entertainment, hospitality, and tech scenes in the country.

[NOTES: Cities are ranked from high to low based on mortgage affordability as determined by Zillow and based on the share of a metro’s median income that would be needed to pay a mortgage on the median house in that metro area. A negative number in mortgage affordability Y-O-Y means that city got more affordable between Jan. 2020 and Jan. 2021. All data courtesy of Zillow]

Scranton, PA

·     Mortgage Affordability: 11.1%

·     Mortgage Affordability Y-O-Y Change: -2.2%

·     Median Home Price: $139,985

·     Y-O-Y Price Appreciation: 14.2%

Jackson, MS

·     Mortgage Affordability: 11.1%

·     Mortgage Affordability Y-O-Y Change: -6.9%

·     Median Home Price: $157,611

·     Y-O-Y Price Appreciation: 8.8%

Little Rock, AR

·     Mortgage Affordability: 11.3%

·     Mortgage Affordability Y-O-Y Change: -7.2%

·     Median Home Price: $166,580

·     Y-O-Y Price Appreciation: 7.6%

Baton Rouge, LA

·     Mortgage Affordability: 12.6%

·     Mortgage Affordability Y-O-Y Change: -5.4%

·     Median Home Price: $198,547

·     Y-O-Y Price Appreciation: 3.3%

Birmingham, AL

·     Mortgage Affordability: 12.6%

·     Mortgage Affordability Y-O-Y Change: -2.9%

·     Median Home Price: $195,643

·     Y-O-Y Price Appreciation: 10.7%

Oklahoma City, OK

·     Mortgage Affordability: 12.7%

·     Mortgage Affordability Y-O-Y Change: 0.8%

·     Median Home Price: $179,922

·     Y-O-Y Price Appreciation: 8.9%

Indianapolis, IN

·     Mortgage Affordability: 12.8%

·     Mortgage Affordability Y-O-Y Change: -1.2%

·     Median Home Price: $212,334

·     Y-O-Y Price Appreciation: $13.7%

Columbia, SC

·     Mortgage Affordability: 12.8%

·     Mortgage Affordability Y-O-Y Change: 2.1%

·     Median Home Price: $179,785

·     Y-O-Y Price Appreciation: $10.3%

Augusta, GA

·     Mortgage Affordability: 12.9%

·     Mortgage Affordability Y-O-Y Change: 1.4%

·     Median Home Price: $177,614

·     Y-O-Y Price Appreciation: 12.2%

Louisville, KY

·     Mortgage Affordability: 13%

·     Mortgage Affordability Y-O-Y Change: -6.8%

·     Median Home Price: $205,647

·     Y-O-Y Price Appreciation: 10.6%

Memphis, TN

·     Mortgage Affordability: 13.3%

·     Mortgage Affordability Y-O-Y Change: -0.7%

·     Median Home Price: $182,914

·     Y-O-Y Price Appreciation: 13.2%

Pittsburgh, PA

·     Mortgage Affordability: 13.4%

·     Mortgage Affordability Y-O-Y Change: -0.1%

·     Median Home Price: $185,063

·     Y-O-Y Price Appreciation: 13%

Winston-Salem, NC

·     Mortgage Affordability: 13.4%

·     Mortgage Affordability Y-O-Y Change: 0.5%

·     Median Home Price: $184,526

·     Y-O-Y Price Appreciation: 15.1%

St. Louis, MO

·     Mortgage Affordability: 13.7%

·     Mortgage Affordability Y-O-Y Change: 0.4%

·     Median Home Price: $205,604

·     Y-O-Y Price Appreciation: 11.5%

Cleveland, OH

·     Mortgage Affordability: 14%

·     Mortgage Affordability Y-O-Y Change: 0.8%

·     Median Home Price: $184,224

·     Y-O-Y Price Appreciation: 13.5%

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