THE FUTURE OF SHOPPING MALLS

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Malls of the future have an opportunity to fulfill other community needs besides commerce, June Williamson, a City College of New York architecture professor and the author of “Retrofitting Suburbia,” tells Business Insider.

The US also just built too many malls, Williamson says. In the mid-’90s, the number of American malls peaked at around 1,500. Today, there are only about 1,000 left.

The number of walk-in clinics in malls rose 15% from 2011 to 2016, according to the Urgent Care Association of America. Last year, Bloomberg reported that a third of all urgent care is now located inside shopping centers.

In 2007, the 100 Oaks Mall redeveloped one of its department stores into the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which leases over half of 850,000-square-foot building. (The other half is still retail space today.)

In late 2016, the Milpitas Planning Commission in California also approved a plan to turn the abandoned department store in the Milpitas Town Center into a 24-hour gym.

Retail stores are not the only mall businesses that are struggling. Those in the food court are having a hard time, too.

Most failing food courts, however, are redeveloping into clusters of high-priced restaurants right now, like the one at Miami’s Aventura Mall, which got rid of the cheap chains and opened a revamped eatery last winter

In the 1990s, the average American shopper would spent multiple hours in a mall, but today, people barely stay for an hour, David Smiley, the assistant director of Columbia University’s Urban Design graduate program, tells BI.

Many dead retail spaces will likely morph into businesses that have community-based functions, like apartments, public libraries, indoor farms, and refrigerated spaces for processing food (for local restaurants or grocery stores), Williamson says.

In 2012 and 2013, the Carousel Center in Syracuse, New York re-branded as Destiny USA, and added higher-end restaurants, IMAX screens, an arcade, and indoor go-carting and obstacle courses. According to the mall, the 2.4-million-square-foot complex draws around 29 million people (both from the US and Canada) every year.

Developers in New Jersey are also building a gigantic mega-mall, called American Dream Meadowlands, that will include a Nickelodeon theme park (similar to the one at Minnesota’s Mall of America). It’s set to open in 2019.

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