With a large university in town, we talk a lot about pumping-up our downtown to take advantage of the captive student shoppers, but vibrant downtowns are bigger than any one demographic segment. I was reminded of the broad appeal for downtowns when I came across an article in the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) that described how affluent retirees are “flocking” to life style centers that try to recreate the small town sensibility that was lost with the malling of America. The article notes that youth of all ages are reliving a part of americana in the next evolution of downtowns that take the best of what was and make it relevant and fun by today’s standards. Which is exactly what Main Street Kent is working on. So I say, don’t settle for an imitation of a downtown, when you can have an original in Kent.
Affluent Boomers Flock to Town Center
June 2007 AARP Bulletin
Terry Zimmerman used to shop a lot by catalog because she hates mammoth malls. But when the Avenue Carriage Crossing opened near her home in Collierville, Tenn., Zimmerman’s catalogs hit the trash.
Unlike an indoor mall, the Avenue features tree-lined blocks of specialty shops and cafes, “kind of like the town square,” says Zimmerman, 59. “I get a little exercise because I’m outdoors, and I can enjoy the fresh air.”
It’s one of more than 150 “lifestyle centers”—open-air shopping centers designed like small-town downtowns—that have cropped up from Virginia to Oregon. Attracting many well-heeled boomers with a love of dining out, clothing and furnishings, they feature upscale and casual restaurants and stores. They also often have community areas for concerts or other events, and some offer condos and office space.
Memphis-based developer Poag & McEwen operates six lifestyle centers across the country. President Terry McEwen says 43 percent of shoppers at his locations are over age 45.
Ten to 12 lifestyle centers open each year, says Patrice Duker, a spokeswoman for the International Council of Shopping Centers. And the concept, she says, is “really still in its infancy.”
A Photo Tour from the AARP Article Showcasing the Evolving Shopping Experience