Real Estate The Medikum Forum: innovative thinking

12.09.2023 7 Reading Time

Given the rapid growth in e-commerce, many retail segments are under huge pressure – a dynamic that intensified with the coronavirus pandemic. Against this background, new, future-proof ideas and concepts are needed. With the Medikum Forum in Mülheim, Commerz Real is demonstrating what such concepts can look like in practice and the potential that they have. 

Rethinking is essential

The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic brought the whole world to a standstill. Almost all industries were affected by disrupted supply chains, lack of staff and strict regulations and were no longer able to conduct their business as usual. The bricks-and-mortar retail sector was particularly hard hit. Even before the coronavirus crisis, the increase in online commerce meant that the traditional retail trade was increasingly weakened. 

As a result, there was no significant improvement in retail even after the end of the pandemic. Older spaces and ageing shopping centres in particular have been heavily affected by the change in consumption patterns. In particular, conventional retail models such as larger multi-tenant properties, including traditional shopping centres, are no longer working as they used to. 

In these cases, the search for alternative, future-proof space concepts represents one of the biggest and at the same time most exciting challenges in making retail trade more attractive for residents and tourists alike. 

Retail relaunched

Sustainably strengthening retail requires creativity, innovative space concepts and active asset management that is open to new paths

As an asset manager with a focus on real estate, Commerz Real is pursuing several promising approaches. One of many – often overlooked – solutions is healthcare services. Commerz Real presents an example of how attractive retail combined with modern healthcare services can be with its project in Mülheim an der Ruhr: 

the “Forum City Mülheim” is a shopping centre that was originally built in the 1970s in the immediate vicinity of Mülheim central station and has since been modernised several times. As was the case with many shopping centres close to the centre from that time, the sales areas on the upper floor in particular have only had a few visitors for years. This had an impact on tenant quality, which in turn kept visitors away and led to the development of a vicious circle that was clearly too much for the Forum. 

Commerz Real is now deliberately pursuing a radically new path that combines shopping with health and thus puts people’s needs at the heart of its endeavours. Forum Medikum is now being built in the basement and first floor: 14,500 square metres of a total of 52,000 square metres of rental space will be converted into doctor’s practices, therapy rooms or medical facilities by the end of 2023. A new health centre is thus being built in the middle of Mülheim city centre. On the ground floor, the retail areas – predominantly local utilities – will remain in place and supply visitors even during the renovation work. 

Creative concepts with a future

As the example in Mülheim demonstrates, an important prerequisite for the success of the new concept is the micro-location. In the pedestrian area of Mülheim’s city centre, the population density is high, which ensures a sufficiently large patient population, especially among the general practitioners of the Forum Medikum. At the same time, the Forum is easy to get to by public transport due to its proximity to the main train station. This also opens up a large commuter belt for specialist physicians, which extends far beyond the city borders of Mülheim into the densely populated Ruhr region. 

One of the greatest success factors, whether for traditional shopping malls or for innovative concepts such as the Forum Medikum, is the quality of the stay. The stay in the Forum should be made as pleasant as possible for both shoppers and patients. This is why the design of the new spaces is influenced by what is called “healing architecture”, which is intended to have a positive effect on mental and physical well-being and minimise stress factors. 

Focus on people

Healthcare services are, however, just one example of how openly and creatively you can play with retail spaces that are less suited to traditional brick-and-mortar retail than they used to be. The range of gastronomy offerings in shopping malls is also becoming increasingly important – especially in business districts and other locations with many offices. Fitness centres or indoor playgrounds are now often among the regular tenants. The rapidly growing segment of urban city logistics is also a good choice for alternative uses of space. 

Not having retail tenants does not automatically mean vacancies. On the contrary. Comprehensive repositioning can also offer great opportunities for the overall success of a shopping centre. With the Forum Medikum, Commerz Real demonstrates what a successful repositioning can look like – patients waiting for their doctor’s appointment can use some of their time for a small shopping trip thereby boosting regional retail again. 

To do this, the respective areas must be well networked with each other and the needs of people must be brought to the fore. If these needs are actively addressed, demand will also increase. This ultimately results in concepts that provide real added value – for tenants, consumers and investors.