|Empty Malls might be a sign of the times, but those which are prepared to embrace change are finding new life in a variety of ways|
Evolution and Decline
With many malls and shopping centres already suffering a downturn, the pandemic dealt them another blow with lockdowns, more people working from home and a desire to avoid crowds. In the USA some 12,000 shops had closed by 2020, with most of them located within shopping centres. Almost one third of America’s 1000 malls are expected to close by 2025.
Nor is the problem confined to the USA. Several large centres in the UK such as the Elephant and Castle in London, Chilterns in High Wycombe and Broadmarsh in Nottingham have also closed. Elsewhere in Europe, France, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Norway have all reported downturns with around 18 shopping centres closing down. While up -market malls are likely to survive, the rest are having to innovate to survive.
Getting people back into shopping centres
One of the best ways to bring people back to shopping centres is to have them live there. Here are just a few examples of malls which have looked to residential developments.
In the USA, the Cinderella Mall in Denver has added a city hall, 440 apartments, medical centres, educational facilities and a light rail station. It has also created employment for 25,000 people
America’s first mall, Providence Mall on Rhode Island, has been converted to 38 micro apartments.
In Australia, the Glen Shopping Centre in Melbourne is adding 500 new homes and offices and combining them with leisure, dining and shopping facilities. Also in Melbourne, the Chadstone Shopping Centre which already has a twelve storey, five star hotel and office towers, has now put its $450 million Sky Garden apartments on top.
Brentwood Mall in Vancouver, Canada is adding 11 towers of residential apartments and two office blocks.
[Incidentally, Boston is making it a requirement that developers must include childcare facilities in new commercial buildings in the city or provide cash payments for their establishment elsewhere. This could be an excellent idea for other jurisdictions which want to encourage more women in the workforce].
Such “Lifestyle Centres” which enable people to live, work, shop and find entertainment in one place are likely to become even more popular as fuel costs rise, but that is by no means the only way in which malls are finding new life.
More than just shopping
Even malls that haven't gone down the accommodation route are thinking up new ways to get people through the door. Some offer novel activities such as VIP nights, DJs or changing pop up stores to keep people coming back. Others are adding more permanent facilities such as gyms, daycare, medical services, gaming arenas and co -working spaces, to make them one -stop shops and de facto town centres.
Sports, recreation and cultural activities
At Vancouver Mall in Washington D.C. a Japanese consortium plans to add a karaoke bar, a pool hall and a bowling alley and it is already host to an art school and a branch of the library.The Lakeforest Mall in Maryland is home to live theatre productions and a gallery. Westfield’s Knox Shopping Centre in the outer suburbs of Melbourne will also be adding a library, co - working office space, medical, financial, art and recreational facilities. A swim school is also planned.
Bucharest’s Colosseum, Romania’s largest mall has added a casino, a multiplex cinema, a fitness centre and children’s playgrounds. It is in the process of adding more office and commercial space.
Read about the transformation of an enclosed urban shopping centre in Barcelona to an integrated town centre which includes sport and recreation, commerce, cultural activities, playgrounds, technology and dining here.
Other ways in which malls have reinvented themselves
Some have become hospitals and medical centres. A former Walmart in Fort Wright Kentucky, for example, has become the Christ Hospital and Outpatient Centre. Nashville's 100 Oaks Mall is now a medical centre.
Others are turning into schools and educational facilities. The Highland Mall in Austin Texas for example, has become part of the the Austin Community College. Life Science Centres are springing up in several parts of the UK. See for example, what's happening in Cambridge.
The sacred and profane
Between 2016 and 2019 Amazon has converted no less than 25 American malls into distribution centres and plans to convert several more.