January 19th, 2017

The Capital Times


Hilldale mall begins second phase of streetscape transformation

By mid-summer, Hilldale Shopping Center will have completed its transformation into an open-air mall.

Earlier this month, Hilldale began construction on the second phase of the mall’s redevelopment. The first phase, which began in 2014, redesigned the north end of the mall from Metcalfe’s grocery store to Macy’s department store into an open-air space.

The second phase will redesign 55,000 square feet at the southern end of the mall, from Macy’s to Sundance Cinema, into the same “pedestrian-friendly streetscape” style.

The redesign will include the addition of new businesses, which have not yet been announced.

The construction will also create a year-round outdoor green space in front of Sundance Cinemas. Hilldale plans to host family-friendly events and programs in the space.

In moving to a completely open-air format, the mall is following the national trend away from climate-controlled, enclosed malls toward Main Street-style complexes that rely on a mix of retail, entertainment and restaurants.

Despite Wisconsin’s chilly temperatures, Shannon Ridgeway, Hilldale’s general manager, said the open-air format on the northern end of the mall has worked well for Hilldale.

“The community is unanimously happy with the evolution of Hilldale as it has a place in many of their hearts. The diverse mix of new and old retailers and restaurant options keep our sidewalks and parking lots consistently filled with guests from in and around Madison,” Ridgeway said.

Before the change, there was a lot of apprehension about the outdoor set up, said Gary Yanky, manager of the New Balance store in the mall. He’s been manager of the store for 15 years, and saw the store through its recent relocation transition.

“I was sort of second guessing this whole thing at first, but I think it’s worked out really well,” he said.

Now his business is contingent on the weather, he said. When it’s nice outside, business is way up, but when the weather is bad, business is way down. January and February tend to be tough months, he said.

The store also gets significantly less foot traffic from people walking by, and has had to focus on becoming a destination for athletes.

But the net result is positive: store sales were up 30 percent every month of the first year after the move, and second-year numbers have shown slight increases over the first year, Yanky said.

The mall started construction in the first week of January and plans to be finished by summer 2017. All businesses will remain open during construction.

Hilldale, which has been around since 1962, is owned by Massachusetts-based WS Development. WS Development bought the center in 2012.

By: Lisa Speckhard

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