These Malls Aren’t Dead, They’re Simply Being Reincarnated

Shoppers might not be crowding the stores, but there's still a lot going on. These Malls Aren’t Dead, They’re Simply Being Reincarnated Giphy

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With the holidays rapidly approaching, you might have seen some increased foot traffic at your local mall … assuming it hasn’t already gone out of business.

But throughout much of the year, the shops inside malls across the U.S. are struggling to stay afloat as most of the modern retail experience takes place online.

Rethinking the space

The heyday of bustling malls from the ‘80s and ‘90s is long gone, and what’s left are largely vacant hulls where food courts, department stores, and an obligatory Hot Topic once welcomed shoppers. That doesn’t mean that this space doesn’t have value, but it does mean that developers need to start thinking outside the box in order to breathe new life into old malls.

Fortunately, such innovations are taking place in many communities and the results are often pretty impressive. Here are a few of the most notable examples:

  • Macon Mall in Georgia now houses a state-of-the-art pickleball court as well as an outdoor amphitheater that can seat 10,000 people.
  • Oakdale Mall in New York has embraced an athletic theme with the nation’s largest Dick’s Sporting Goods location, an ice rink, and a turf field.
  • Conestoga Mall in Nebraska is currently undergoing renovations set to include a new hotel, a large bike trail, and various other attractions.

Many other abandoned or semi-vacant malls nationwide have received new life by being transformed into office space, healthcare clinics, or residential units, or even schools.

These are welcome changes for property owners saddled with unused space, but Columbia Business School retail studies director Mark Cohen explained why he’s “very cynical” about the trend:

“There’s always going to be an opportunity … to create physical interaction, but it’s not going to reverse the direction of the tides in places which have fallen by the wayside.”

Chris Agee
Chris Agee December 5th, 2023
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