101 Uses for a Deserted Mall – NYTimes.com

What do you do with a mall that no one shops at?

As the recession deepens, the retail industry continues to take a huge hit. Nowhere is this more visible than in the rising vacancy rate in shopping malls across the country. Mall owners are gambling on various businesses to draw people in, from water parks to educational services. What happens, or should happen, to dying or dead shopping malls?

One of the contributors mentions a catalogue at deadmalls.com, which is definitely worth taking a look at – to see the malls you knew and loved from prior homes or familiar places. The common thread is definitely “the other mall killed me” – though in Amherst, Mass., both Hamster Mall and Mountain Farms are on the list of dead malls … and in Princeton N.J., the Forrestal Village has apparently died without an assassin.

The consequences are ugly… As the deadmalls.com founder Peter Blackbird puts it:

Most developers assumed that if their mall was newer and larger than the competition then they would make money, and for the most part they did. But what many developers failed to consider or neglected to care about was what happens to their project when the next mall is built. The blight that is left behind when one fails is a weight on the community. Lost tax revenue and jobs, increased vandalism and crime and lower property values are just a few of the problems a dead mall creates.

The common theme on this is that malls serve a broader set of community needs than just selling stuff. But when selling stuff isn’t profitable any more, they empty out, sit vacant, and drag the whole area down. So the key is finding out what they could do that serves these other community needs – as housing, public spaces,  really need to be reconfigured and quickly.

Two thoughts. First, for those of us in Silver Spring, City Place comes to mind – though it’s not included in deadmalls.com, perhaps as an urban mall. But it makes me crazy to think about all the greenfields public construction projects going up all around town – the new civic building on top of the “turf,” a new library around the corner, a new park & planning building, maybe – but there’s this big negative energy called City Place in the middle of it all. Why aren’t we putting the library (or M-NCPPC, or both) there?

Second, is that these seem to be “shovel-ready” projects that would be a wonderful target of economic stimulus – a kind of New Deal for malls. They could be libraries, schools, public offices – places with people instead of ghosts.

via 101 Uses for a Deserted Mall – Room for Debate Blog – NYTimes.com.

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