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New Lives for Dead Malls

Suburban malls around the country are shutting down, and the huge spaces offer a variety of opportunities for creative reuse.
November 30, 2019, 11am PST | Camille Fink
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Michael Steeber

"Dozens [of malls] nationwide have shuttered in the past decade, and a quarter of the estimated 1,100 that remain are projected to follow by 2022, opening large swaths of empty space," writes Abha Bhattarai. The empty structures mean that millions of square feet of retail space and parking lots have been left behind.

But developers and municipalities are also seeing the potential to repurpose these spaces in a number of very different ways. For example, in Nashville, Vanderbilt University took over a mall property and spent $99 million to renovate the facilities for specialty clinics, says Bhattarai. "Medical clinic leases at shopping malls have grown nearly 60 percent since 2017, while leases for clothing stores have fallen about 10 percent, according to data from CoStar Group."

Bhattarai describes other examples of abandoned malls transformed for new uses: megachurches, homeless shelters, fitness centers, and video gaming hubs. Some tenants are using spaces temporarily, while others are making large-scale renovation investments. In addition, some of these former malls still house retail establishments, an arrangement that developers see as a win-win since visitors to a gym, for example, are also potential shoppers at stores at the same location.

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Published on Friday, November 22, 2019 in The Washington Post
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