According to Credit Suisse, up to one-quarter of U.S. malls will close by 2022. During the past 60 years, malls served as a major public commons in the U.S. The design and stewardship of commons is a crucial component of public-sector marketing. Redesigning failed shopping malls could be an huge public-sector opportunity.
Tough times have hit my local mall. J.C. Penny’s and Payless Shoe Source are leaving. Macy’s may be next. Two shooting incidents have happened there in the last six months. The mall was built in the 1970s and renovated 10 years ago, but slipped into foreclosure three years ago. Last year, the Mayor announced that the mall was for sale. Today, space in the mall is only 75 percent leased.
The internet has surpassed the mall as a public space in the U.S. Shopping and public interaction now take place online. The decline of the shopping mall means the decline of a public common space. Governing the commons is a crucial part of public sector marketing. So, what’s a marketer to do with dying malls?
Design Possibilities for Failed Shopping Malls
Just like with failed municipal golf courses, there are possibilities.
A city not too far from me has approved redevelopment of a closed four-story department store and surround parking lot. The area will become a downtown neighborhood with apartments, shops, a park and trail just a few blocks from mass transit. At this writing, the project is stalled because of a lawsuit over environmental issues. With our area’s need for more housing located close to public transit, I predict this project will eventually succeed.
This Los Angeles Times story lists several possibilities and projects underway for redesigning failed shopping malls. In one case, a department store quit a mall. It left behind nearly a quarter-million square feet of empty space. Instead of another store moving in, Ford Motor Co. used the building as offices for engineers and accountants.
A recent CBS News segment discussed options and opportunities for redesigning failed shopping malls, including mixed-use residential housing and healthcare facilities.
Redesigning Failed Shopping Malls for Food and Power
Here are a couple of my favorite personal ideas for redesigning failed shopping malls:
- Indoor farming: Growing commercial crops inside large buildings in cities makes a lot of sense. Growing indoors lets you control the climate. That means you use 95 percent less water and no pesticides or herbicides. Your crop is located right next to your customers, which saves on warehousing and transportation costs. Plus your customers get fresher food.
- Renewable energy plant: Most mall properties are flat, treeless expenses with large connections to the power grid. I say put solar panels in the parking lots and on the roofs. Inside, install utility-scale batteries. The neighborhood now has a local power source with no pollution and no noise.
I don’t know anyone doing these, yet. You could combine these two ideas, with the indoor farm becoming one of the customers of renewable energy plant. Maybe keep some of the former mall’s restaurant space open with a brew pub that uses hops and vegetables grown on-site.
What ideas do you have for the mall, or un-mall, of the future?
(Image courtesy of Nicholas Eckhart / Wikimedia Commons)