For the future of the American mall, look to Bangkok.

BANGKOK — A big idea with outsized influence for the future: re-envisioning the shopping mall, from that of a zoo of distinctly separate stores, to a cohesive community gathering space (where the tenants even play together).

You might think this as a directive arriving straight from the hipster hubs of San Francisco or Brooklyn. In fact, it’s a concept that’s being proven thousands of miles away in Bangkok, Thailand, according to a report at Appear Here.

The concept: The Commons: a “community mall”, or a place where community meets consumerism. It’s another strong point of reference for modern retail development, alongside London’s King’s Cross development.

The details: “The four [story] eco-friendly complex is purpose-built to bring locals closer to nature, community and wholesome living — a welcomed departure from the city’s overkill of air conditioned luxury commercial malls and international franchises.”

What makes this development unique:

  1. Local only. “Rather than replicate Bangkok’s tired mall formula, they shunned international franchises and invited other home-grown producers to open up shop, opting for quality over footfall.”
  2. Bringing leisure space to the city. “As the city continues to develop, there’s a lack of urban planning. An abundance of commercial retail space leaves little space to enjoy nature and just hang out, without needing to escape the city. This only adds to the appeal of The Common’s commitment to eco-friendly community living, which plays into the city’s rising popularity of farmer’s markets and appreciation for artisanship.”
  3. A leafy, backyard vibe. “The space itself is cleverly designed to replicate a backyard feel, with tables hidden in leafy nooks, wooden stairs designed as hangout spaces and a colossal fan that creates a constant breeze through the tropical outdoor space.”

Why this is important: The American shopping mall is dying. Shoppers are looking for community spaces that tap into local offerings and creativity, but that can also round things out with a sense of internationalism. Online shopping has made the brick and mortar store much less necessary — the mall even less so. Today, developers and brands must figure out how to create compelling spaces that are inviting and (in some cases) made for lingering, rather than strictly viewing stores as transactional spaces. In short, it’s more of a long term branding play.

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