Power center (retail)

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DC USA, a vertical power center in Washington, D.C.
Sign showing the main stores in The Centre on Barton, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Big-box store entrances in Gateway Center, Brooklyn

Power center[1][2] or big-box center (known in Canadian and Commonwealth English as power centre or big-box centre) is a term used by developers and retailers to describe a shopping center with typically 250,000 to 600,000 square feet (23,000 to 56,000 m2) of gross leasable area[2] that usually contains three or more big box anchor tenants and various smaller retailers,[1] where the anchors occupy 75–90% of the total area.[3][4]

Origins and history[edit]

280 Metro Center in Colma, California is credited as the world's first power center.[5][6][7] Local real estate developer Merritt Sher opened 280 Metro Center in 1986 next to Interstate 280 as an open-air strip shopping center dominated by big-box stores and category killers.[6][7][8] As originally constructed, 280 Metro Center featured 363,000 square feet (33,700 m2) of gross leasable area, which was home to seven anchor tenants, 27 smaller shops, and a six-screen movie theater.[5] The original seven anchors were Federated Electronics, The Home Depot, Herman's Sporting Goods, Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack, Pier 1, and The Wherehouse.[5]

280 Metro Center was a revolutionary development at a time when retail shopping in North America was dominated by enclosed shopping malls.[9] Fed up with long hikes through shopping malls to visit relatively small boutique tenants, American shoppers flocked to power centers where they could conveniently park right in front of big-box stores.[9] By 1998, there were 313 power centers in the United States with a combined gross leasable area of 266,000,000 square feet (24,700,000 m2); together, they accounted for over five percent of national shopping center sales.[7] The highest numbers of power centers were in the states of California and Florida.[7] By January 2017, there were 2,258 power centers in the United States with a combined gross leasable area of 990,416,000 square feet (92,012,700 m2), which was 13% of the combined gross leasable area of all shopping centers in the United States.[2]


In Canada, South Edmonton Common in Edmonton is the largest power centre, and one of the largest open-air retail developments in North America. Spread over 320 acres (1.3 km2), South Edmonton Common has more than 2,300,000 sq ft (210,000 m2) of gross leasable area.[10][non-primary source needed]

Repurposing malls as power centers[edit]

In recent years, it has become common for older, traditional shopping malls to:

Main Street theme[edit]

Woodbury Lakes outside of Minneapolis, a "Main Street" in the middle of a power center

Some new power center developments have attempted, as have lifestyle centers and regional outdoor malls (e.g. Otay Ranch Town Center, Atlantic Station), to recreate the atmosphere of an old-town Main Street. Stores line streets where cars may drive and where there is limited parking, with much more parking in lots or garages in the back. The "main street" particularly serves to house the smaller stores and chain stores once typically found in malls. An example is Woodbury Lakes in Woodbury, Minnesota—where, according to urbanist website streets.mn, the developers "dispensed with the integrated anchors and instead plopped down 'Main Street' in the middle of what is otherwise a regional power center".[12]

Dadeland Station, a vertical power center in Miami

Vertical power centers[edit]

Power centers are almost always in suburban areas, but occasionally redevelopment has brought them to densely populated urban areas. In environments where denser development is desirable, a power center may consist of multiple floors, with one or more big-box anchors on each floor, and floors of parking, all "stacked" vertically. Examples of such centers include:


European terminology[edit]

In Europe, any shopping center with mostly what are called "retail warehouse units" (U.K.) or "big box stores" or "superstores" (U.S.), 5,000 square metres (54,000 sq ft) or larger, is a retail park, according to the leading real estate company Cushman & Wakefield.[18][19]

According to ICSC, what in Europe is classified as a "retail park" would, in the U.S., be classified thus:[2]

  • Power center – 250,000 to 600,000 square feet (23,000 to 56,000 m2), typically anchored by category-killer big box stores (e.g. Best Buy) including discount department stores (e.g. Target) and wholesale clubs (e.g. Costco)
  • Neighborhood shopping center – 30,000 to 125,000 square feet (2,800 to 11,600 m2) of gross leasable area, typically anchored by a supermarket and/or large drugstore

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Garbarine, Rachelle (August 15, 1999). "The New Goal at Retail Power Centers: Eye Appeal; Bowing to demands by towns to give more attention to design". The New York Times. p. RE9. Archived from the original on 2017-09-12.
  2. ^ a b c d "U.S. Shopping-Center Classification and Characteristics" (PDF). International Council of Shopping Centers. January 2017. Retrieved 2020-05-16.
  3. ^ Bennett, Jane (July 4, 2003). "Gate plans retail". Jacksonville Business Journal. Archived from the original on 2008-11-18.
  4. ^ "Commercial Real Estate Glossary". R.L. Travers & Associates. Springfield, Virginia. 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-10-30.
  5. ^ a b c Totty, Michael (December 27, 1988). "'Power' Centers Lure Shoppers by Mixing Elements From Big Malls and Small Plazas". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. p. 1. Available through ProQuest Central.
  6. ^ a b Laird, Gordon (2009). The Price of a Bargain: The Quest for Cheap and the Death of Globalization. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. p. 68. ISBN 9781551993287. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d Pacione, Michael (2009). Urban Geography: A Global Perspective (3rd ed.). Milton Park: Routledge. p. 249. ISBN 9780415462013. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  8. ^ Smith, Chris (13 March 2018). "Merritt Sher, Healdsburg hotel developer, dies at 78". Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  9. ^ a b Laird, Gordon (2009). The Price of a Bargain: The Quest for Cheap and the Death of Globalization. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. p. 69. ISBN 9781551993287. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  10. ^ "About Us". South Edmonton Common. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  11. ^ "Seven Corners Business Area". Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24.
  12. ^ Castleman, Monty (May 11, 2020). "From shopping malls to lifestyle centers". streets.mn. Retrieved June 27, 2020.
  13. ^ "San Diego CA: Metro Center - Retail Space - Merlone Geier Partners". merlonegeier.propertycapsule.com. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  14. ^ "One Wetside". onewestside.com. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  15. ^ "Gran Patio Santa Fe". www.stantec.com.
  16. ^ "Los 10 malls más grandes de México ("Mexico's largest malls")" (in Spanish). El Financiero (Mexico). November 18, 2015.
  17. ^ http://www.shopdcusa.com. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ "European Retail Parks: What's Next". Cusman & Wakefield. Summer 2019. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. ^ "DEVELOPMENT OF RETAIL PARKS ACCELERATES THROUGHOUT EUROPE", Across: the European Placemaking Magazine, August 23, 2016

External links[edit]