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A Strike for Retail

Retail developers looking to complement their entertainment offerings within mixed-use projects are bringing back a blast from the past — bowling alleys.

Once cavernous shells at shopping centers dominated by league bowlers, today's alleys have become trendy nightspots offering full-service restaurants, upscale cocktails as well as LCD projector and wireless Internet access and private meeting rooms for professional and social gatherings.

These new facilities — operated both by upcoming chains like Lucky Strike Lanes and industry stalwarts such as Brunswick Bowling and AMF Bowling Centers — appeal to a much wider range of customers and can even serve as secondary anchors at shopping centers, says Steven Rudow, manager of real estate development at Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises.

“Bowling alleys offer a destination-oriented venue and when combined with a lifestyle center it increases traffic and the amount of hours people spend at the center,” Rudow says.

Although Forest City has yet to enter into any deals that will put a bowling alley in any of its 42 centers, Rudow says they are considering introducing them at a few. Traditionally, bowling alleys were more of a feature at suburban regional shopping centers. Today, they are well suited for an urban center as well.

While a 40-lane center may require a larger space than some anchors, the build-out is not as expensive as, say, a restaurant. “They've come back around because they are significantly inexpensive as an entertainment venue,” Rudow says.

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