How can we repurpose dead malls and big box stores?

I did a story about Costco's decision to lease out space at a couple malls around the country. (Listen here.) It got me wondering about other, less lucky malls and big box stores. You know the ones; shopping centers that were consumer wonderlands that quickly faded to empty, or near-empty, irrelevance. (The website deadmalls.com keeps a state by state list of failed and failing malls.)

It turns out that, in some communities, people are trying to repurpose these shopping centers. According to Julia Christensen, author of Big Box Reuse communities are using empty big box stores for everything from charter schools to a Spam museum.

And some malls are being turned into mixed-use housing developments.

One example: the 40-year old Natick Mall in Boston was given new life as the Natick Collection--a a high-end shopping center with 215 luxury condos. The development has struggled, as the Boston Globe reports, developers sold less than 40% of the condos before turning to auction to unload the rest.

Do you know of any successful mall or big box reuse projects? Got any ideas? I'd love to hear about them.

Photo Credit: Flickr user Sean_Marshall

About the author

Adriene Hill is a senior multimedia reporter for the Marketplace sustainability desk, with a focus on consumer issues and the individual relationship to sustainability and the environment.
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Lincoln Square Mall, Urbana, IL. Still has a few of the successful little local mall stores (art/card shop boutique, jeweler, candy store) a coffee shop, but now houses also the senior center, offices for a local health insurance company, a gym, 2 restaurants, and the local food co-op. Still a mall, but with a much more local flavor. Great farmers market in the parking lot for about half the year too.

I work for a large architecture/engineering firm in Nashville, and one of our more successful projects was a reinvention of the local One Hundred Oaks Mall by Vanderbilt university Medical Center. We highlighted the project here — http://showcase.gspnet.com/Showcase/Projects/Showcase-3/Vanderbilt-Medic... — and it's been a great addition to the community. The space retained a good deal of retail, but the transformed medical spaces allow Vanderbilt to send top-tier medical services into the suburbs without losing quality of care.

I think dead malls could be used as schools! Big classrooms, built in food service areas, areas to congregate between classes...

Here in cedar rapids, ia our county offices have moved into a large section of empty mall space due to damage to their normal office spaces during flooding in 2008. Although we are not certain if this will be permanent, it is convenient to have the vast majority of those entities in a single space.

I was thinking about this the other day wrt all the eventually empty Blockbuster, Barnes/Noble and Borders stores, which is how I ended up here. I'd love to live in one of these, or a refurbished mall. Large and interesting spaces. Zoning laws screw it up, but I wish it was possible.

In the Fall of 2008, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art commissioned five artists to design projects that would transform dead malls,
you can see and read about what that came up with

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