New Uses for Old Shopping Malls

Shopping malls, once icons of suburban affluence, are dying. As consumer patterns shift and young people lose interest in these former meeting places, many malls are showing a lifelessness not seen since Dawn of the Dead. In turn, cities, companies and property managers have been forced to reckon with an oversupplied, underused, retail form. In many cases, old malls are being torn down or simply left to decay. However, in other places, this decline has been seen as an opportunity for reinvention. The 188 year old Providence Arcade, the oldest mall in the US, now consists of 48 micro-units and a host of small shops, bars and restaurants. There are 4,000 people on the rental wait-list. In Ohio, a series of shopping malls have been redeveloped along similar lines, but with a specific demographic in mind. Designed to reflect the small towns of yesteryear, these malls have been transformed into dementia villages for the elderly. From hockey rinks to greenhouses, when developers, designers and cities get creative, the re-use of shopping malls can take many forms. To be clear, not all shopping malls are struggling. However, with over 100,000 malls in the US, the successful re-use of these retail relics is an important step towards repairing the suburban form and learning from past mistakes.


Mitchell Reardon

Mitchell Reardon is the TH!NK by IBI blog curator, a land use planner and urban experimenter. His interdisciplinary work centres on people and how they live, work and move through the city. Mitchell is enjoying life in Vancouver, after 6 years of living and working in Stockholm, Sweden. Catch up with him on Twitter: @MitchellReardon

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