Transforming Retail in Norwalk

May 15, 2019

Sono Collection | Norwalk Tomorrow

Norwalk has many types of retail spaces, from walkable city streets to strip malls and large big box stores. As Norwalk watches the new SoNo Collection mall rise off West Avenue and Interstate 95, it’s clear that it will impact the retail environment in the city. It’s a good time to consider the changing face and of malls in the country and how Norwalk’s new mall will fit in that trend.

Developers of the SoNo Collection envision it as an upscale regional shopping center, housing 700,000+ square feet of retail, including anchor tenants Nordstrom and Bloomingdales, as well as 80-100 smaller retailers such as J. Jill, Sephora, and Chicos.

Despite the pending arrival of new shops in town, we increasingly hear about the boom in internet shopping affecting brick and mortar stores and malls. According to Coresight Research, 5,862 stores closed their doors in 2018, while only 3,239 new stores opened. As for malls, the forecast looks as grim. Credit Suisse estimates that 20% to 25% of malls are likely to close over the next five years due to store closures.

Because of this seemingly poor outlook, malls are faced with the need to change their offerings. The mall of the future may look very different from today. The trend is to make malls more like “city centers” with destination-type, experiential entertainment venues such as gyms, more food options and hotels, in addition to traditional retail.

The new Hudson Yards Mall in New York City is an example of this new model. In addition to a wide variety of retail shops from high-end luxury such as Tiffany’s, to the more affordable, like H&M, Hudson Yards has many food options. You can find small craft coffee shops to restaurants run by celebrity chefs and everything in between. But what really distinguishes this mall, is the other multi-use options. There is 3DEN billed as a space to unwind where you can take a nap, meditate, even shower. Hudson Yards mall is right next to new hi-rise apartments as well as offices housing large companies like CNN and SAP. Equinox gym is opening up right next store, along with the first Equinox hotel.

Location of the SoNo Collection Mall

Sono Collection Mall | Norwalk Tomorrow

Back in Norwalk, we can see the start of this mixed-use model in the SoNo Collection. As of spring 2019, the new mall is set to include Yard House sports bar, as well as Pinstripes, a dining and entertainment venue. Pinstripes includes bowling, a bistro and bocce courts all in one.The SoNo Collection Pinstripes will allow shoppers to view the bowling alleys, and the restaurant will include outdoor patio seating and bocce courts overlooking the water. Plans also include large areas devoted to public spaces such as a sculpture garden, a rooftop garden, and possibly museum and education space.

There was a time when teenagers went to the mall and stayed for hours. Today, malls are working to encourage people to use the malls as destinations again – to come and stay, but not just for the shopping. The new SoNo Collection is following that trend.

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