Dying Malls – How to Revive Them

skysong sails
Sky Song at sunset looks awfully cool on the former Los Arcos Mall property. Until you see the buildings behind it. (Photo by mike3.14159)

I got wrapped up in a story about dead malls via LinkedIn.com. Why are Malls Getting Mauled? observes that mega-shopping centers might be endangered.

My city of Scottsdale, Ariz., is known as a shopping destination for travelers, especially for snowbirds. Within its borders are the remains of failed shopping malls like the Scottsdale Galleria. There was also a years-long tussle about how to deal with the Los Arcos Mall; investors bought it in hopes of bulldozing it and building a hockey arena for the Phoenix Coyotes. And now, it’s Sky Song, a mix of cool and stodgy owned by Arizona State University.

The LinkedIn.com article pins it all on online shopping … with no mention of the growing “buy local” movements nationwide. Maybe even worldwide. I don’t have stats or even evidence beyond my own observations, so let’s leave that alone for now.

new crossfit gym
Old malls would be perfect places for CrossFit gyms and other athletic facilities. (Photo credit: ramsey everydaypants)

Here’s the fun question: Let’s say malls in your community start dying off. What would you want to do with them?

People in the comments section mention indoor flea markets and indoor “green spaces.”

Erm, not particularly imaginative of fun. Somewhat practical.

My answer? Mix it up, and turn them into some recreational spaces. Old malls are perfect places for events – music venues, for example. And many would make mind-blowing venues for paintball, Airsoft, even some sort of laser tag-style stuff. Oh, and gyms! I’m not talking about big-box gyms like LA Fitness, but rather yoga, CrossFit or spinning-specific studios. Maybe some real rock-climbing walls. And I could see it being a perfect place for microbreweries to set up.

The key here is reasonable rent. Consider the older malls: The core of Paradise Valley Mall in Arizona dates back to the late 1970s. This building has paid for itself. That means, should retailers start dribbling out, it’s a safe bet for reasonable rents and some left-of-center uses. I realize PV Mall isn’t dying, but I needed a “for example” case.

We could probably apply this “what to do with it?” question to vacant auto dealerships, too. Scottsdale alone has enough of them to house just about every budding entrepreneur around.

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