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What Should We Do with Deserted Malls?

The American enclosed shopping mall is an endangered species. With retail sales down, chains are closing. That's leaving malls without tenants....


The American enclosed shopping mall is an endangered species. With retail sales down, chains are closing. That's leaving malls without tenants. One report put the vacancy rate at the end of 2008 at 7.1 percent. And so malls themselves are closing.But we've still got the buildings. So, what do we do with them? Over the weekend, The New York Times put that question to some people with particularly interesting perspectives on the issue.Two artchitecture professors who co-wrote the book Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs, predicted: "Smaller malls in older suburbs will increasingly house nonconventional, community-serving tenants, including community college classrooms, branch libraries, spaces for nonprofit arts groups, places of worship, immigrant ‘mom and pop' shops, and public and private office space."Peter Blackbird, the founder of deadmalls.com, says: "Most times, if the building is cheaply constructed, and neglected for years, the only viable option is demolition."I like the idea of repurposing malls a lot. But they aren't the ideal structures for multi-purpose community space. They tend to be designed around the car, surrounded by a sea of parking spaces. You'd have to do some serious relandscaping to make the average suburban mall friendly to cyclists and pedestrians (if they're even within cycling distance from residential neighborhoods in the first place). And malls aren't particularly inviting spaces inside. They tend to be enclosed and tacky.What do you think? Is bulldozing vacant malls the best option or can we make use of them?Photo by Flickr user Eddie~S, licensed under Creative Commons.