smiling older woman

As retail spaces empty amid the coronavirus pandemic, developers are paying attention to the growing population of older adults over age 65. According to the AARP, every day in the United States, 10,000 people turn 65. Rather than letting the spaces sit empty, many are being transformed into comprehensive upscale retirement complexes.

Monday, for example, Allied Group Holdings announced its acquisition of two retail buildings in St. Petersburg, FL, with plans to redevelop the properties into a senior housing-anchored mixed-use project. Allied acquired Maximo Mall, a 2.8-acre, 39,000-square-foot retail center, and the adjacent Maximo Plaza, a 2.5-acre, 10,600-square-foot, single-tenant retail building leased to Ace Hardware. The firm plans to redevelop the site into an eight-story, 154-unit assisted living community, with construction scheduled to begin in the first quarter of next year. Additional retail development also will take place near the site at the same time.

The factors driving retail-to-housing transformation were set in motion years ago but have been accelerated by the pandemic, according to a Friday New York Times article. Malls and shopping centers have faced challenges for years as a result of the shift to online retail. More than 8,000 stores have closed so far this year, notes an analysis by Coresight Research. The firm estimates that as many as 25,000 may shutter before the end of the year.

Seniors increasingly are demanding more activities and environmentally sensitive and walkable communities, as opposed to golf course developments that require them to drive everywhere, Ellen Dunham-Jones, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology told the media outlet. 

“Baby boomers don’t want to be isolated,” she said. “They want to be connected to the community.”