Bringing a Dead Mall Back to Life

Five years ago, Graham Weston, the chairman and co-founder of Rackspace, had a wild vision to transform an abandoned mall into his company's headquarters. His unique approach has revitalized the adjacent city of Windcrest, a suburb of San Antonio.
November 1, 2012, 10am PDT | Jessica Hsu
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"As ruefully documented on the Web site Deadmalls.com," writes Kate Murphy, "the recession has shuttered scores of enclosed malls in the United States, and estate analysts at the CoStar Group predict that at least 10 percent of the remaining 1,500 malls will fail in the next few years." The Windsor Park Mall was just another statistic until Weston decided to convert the abandoned building into a one-of-a-kind work environment.

"I thought, This is going to be awesome!" said Weston. "But everybody else pretty much thought I was crazy." Lanham Napier, the chief executive at Rackspace, admitted, "[a] lot of Rackers worked at Foot Locker in the mall, and the last thing they wanted to do is go away to school, get the fancy degree and come back and work at the mall." After an investment of over $100 million, the mall now comfortably houses the employees along with amenities including a two-story slide, a life-size chessboard, an exercise room, themed conference rooms, and recreation areas.

While some dead malls have been resurrected as mixed-used buildings, Rackspace's project "is unique in that it is the exclusive owner and occupant." Murphy adds, "The project suggests that there might be hidden opportunities in the nation's glut of dead and dying malls and represents one of the country's largest and quirkiest recycling efforts."

In addition to representing the values of the company, the mall cum office park has been a boon to Windcrest, which expects to be debt-free by 2014 as a result of a substantial increase in tax revenue.

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Published on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 in The New York Times
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