I went to Southdale tonight. The refurbished mall entrances look great and and very inviting from the outside.
I may have said this before, but I feel like they (Simon) missed a huge opportunity to reduce the overall leasable space in the mall. Obviously that wouldn't be a mall owner's preference, as they are probably just a little more optimistic about its future than I am.
I grew up with Maplewood Mall and Rosedale. Those malls have very simple layouts. They are essentially 2-story rectangles, with anchors on the 4 sides (if you count the new theater wing at Rosedale as an anchor). From the center courts, you can just about see every store, save for a few that are located near the mall entrance hallways.
Southdale has a smaller central court, and more retail spaces in "pods" that are focused around the interior hallways/entrances to the anchor department stores. My point is that a lot of the smaller stores are hidden away in these wings, not visible from the central court. The renovation did a great job of opening up that central court; it is beautiful and many of the prime spaces are filling up. The wings/pods near the entrances and dept stores are quite vacant, and I'm not confident this will change. The JCPenney wing is struggling the most. Lots of blank walls on the first floor. The new food court on the 2nd level is coming along, but is still close to 50% vacant.
The other jacked-up thing about Southdale is that it has 4 levels!! 3 above ground and a basement. Macy's has some type of operation on all 4, plus Marshall's is entirely in the basement. They did add some signage near stairways and elevators to lead people down to Marshalls. The top floor is a mezzanine, only covering ~1/3 the sq footage of the mall, but it is almost entirely vacant. There's whatever small operation Macy's has up there, plus a dollar store (classy) and nothing.
Were it up to me, I would have sealed off the basement and let Marshall's have the whole top floor. Or just closed the top floor mezzanine area until demand necessitated its reopening.
It's too late now, but from an urban development standpoint, the best thing that could've happened is JCPenney closing or relocating to a standalone store. Then they could have demolished that whole wing of the mall and adjacent parking structure. That would've left a whole bunch of land that could've been sold off for development in the NE corner. Perhaps even some semblance of a street grid could've been restored. But alas the redevelopment happened, thanks to a loan from Edina, and Simon is likely stuck with a 20-25% vacant mall for the foreseeable future. The poorly named 1 Southdale Place is a good start to urbanizing the area. It would be even better if it had a sister development in the NE corner, perhaps screening or integrated with the soon-to-be-built Park & Ride. Had a good chunk of the mall been torn down, there might've even been demand for these street corner facing developments to have retail/restaurant components.