Everybody knows that the retail biz is shifting and shopping malls are slowly dying out. But when stores go out of business, it leaves behind these sprawling, suburban structures with no purpose. No developer worth his salt would let that happen, so many are stepping in to transform these former malls into buildings with a larger purpose like hospitals, schools and churches. It's pretty great.
The problem is this: when malls are abandoned, the surrounding neighborhoods often go downhill as well. But filling the mall with other types of businesses that are less affected by the ups and downs of retail helps keep the building useful and the neighborhood vibrant.
In Austin, Texas, the Highland Mall shut down in 2010, but seeing an opportunity, Austin Community College — which previously only had administrative offices located there — stepped in and bought the empty space. Austin voters approved two bond propositions to allocate government money to construction and renovations in the mall. Now, it's home to 200,00o square feet of computer labs, classrooms, libraries and offices.
In Lexington, Kentucky, the Southland Christian Church bought an abandoned Dillard's and transformed it into a huge (52,000 sq ft) auditorium, offices and a worship center.
It may seem like a funny idea, going to church or school where you used to shop, but for many organizations, the main draw of moving into former mall space is the generous amount square footage at bargain basement prices. After all, it's all good, usable space, so why waste time and money tearing it down when it could be repurposed and transformed? Seems like a win-win to us.
Read more about these and other instances of malls becoming something more at The Atlantic.