In Tampa Bay Florida where I live, you won’t find too many dead malls, but you’ll find plenty that are nearly dead. I personally love ’em.
I love an empty mall. Hearing my footsteps like I’m walking through a parking garage doesn’t bother me. Hearing the distant cheesy music being played over the mall’s audio system doesn’t bother me either. Seeing the large, empty aisles, escalators with little to no people on them and employees in shops moping around looking for something to do doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
Crowded malls don’t bother me, but given the choice, I always prefer the empty mall.
Why do I like empty malls so much?
I genuinely get a chuckle out of driving into this insanely large parking lot where there are barely any cars, walking into this insanely large building where there are barely any people in it, seeing employees in shops where I know they’re thinking as I walk by, “Oh! A customer! Maybe he’ll stop in here to give me something to do?” I mean, seriously, how could I not laugh at how ridiculous it all is? Just imagine how much cash is being wasted every minute an empty mall stays open.
The large shopping mall is a dead business model. Totally, absolutely, without question, dead as a doornail.
Replaced by internet, as in e-commerce? No.
Nobody has any money to waste in a mall where everything is overpriced. And then there’s Wal-Mart. But even Wal-Mart these days isn’t doing so great. Will that retail giant fall? Of course they will; it’s only a matter of time.
Why did so many malls convert over to stores that sell nothing but high-priced crap?
That was a failed attempt to clean up the neighborhood.
The problem with a store that sells nothing but low-priced discount stuff is that it immediately attracts the dregs of society. And when that store accepts any type of government assistance program payments, the store gets overrun with people who live in bad neighborhoods, drives away the good customers, and the place turns into a complete dump in short order.
Malls, in an attempt to combat that problem tried to “price out” the people from the bad neighborhoods. And they did. But then another problem cropped up. Nobody had any money to spend on overpriced useless crap, especially since all the people who had money moved away. As such, the mall dies.
Should old malls be converted into housing?
This is a bit of a touchy subject, but I’ll tackle it anyway.
There are many who believe that shopping malls that can no longer operate as a business should be converted into housing. After all, the building was designed originally to handle major foot traffic and a ton of cars.
What people don’t take into consideration however are two things.
1. Where would people go to work?
If the entire structure was converted to housing, all you have is a bunch of people in the same place that are far away from their jobs – if they even have jobs.
Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem. Have the jobs and the residents in the same building. The first floor is dedicated to business. The supermarket is there, as is the schools, a branch of the the town hall, a movie theater, the security office (you totally need one in a structure that large), a post office, clothing shops, eateries, a general department store and so on.
Every floor above the first is dedicated to housing. And the reason for this is so that patrons that don’t live in the building can visit, shop and support the local economy without butting into local residents that actually live there.
I know that sounds very much like a Logan’s Run way of life where everyone lives in a dome. That’s not the case here. It’s a large shopping mall that’s been converted to living space. And that means anyone can venture out at any time.
Think of it as a “you scratch my back and I scratch yours” way of living. People get full-sized apartments and the job they work is literally just down a flight of stairs or a ride down the escalator. The businesses need the people and the people need the businesses. If planned correctly, yes it could work.
2. Most old malls are totally unsafe.
A large shopping mall is a colossal machine. And if that machine isn’t used, it becomes a death trap. Sometimes literally.
Any large structure can become uninhabitable in as little as six months. When the floors aren’t swept, the windows aren’t washed, the pipes for the water supply aren’t used and so on, everything goes into a state of disrepair. And it can cost hundreds of thousands if not millions to restore the building. In fact, most of the time it’s simply cheaper to demolish the building and build it again.
Old shopping malls stay standing basically for the reason that demolition is not cheap. Price it out sometime, and prepare for some big sticker shock.
Are mall owners missing out on potentially the biggest cash cow ever?
The days of ridiculously large buildings being completely dedicated to nothing but commerce don’t work like they used to.
It used to be that every single vacancy in a mall would be snapped up, and the owner(s) of the mall would collect huge rent checks.
But how often do you see a mall these days where there are no vacancies? Hardly at all. It’s typical that you will see many vacancies in shopping malls these days.
Converting malls into business space plus condominiums could be the cash cow that derelict mall owners have been so desperately looking for. The building is already there, as is the parking.
If the building is fixable (that’s the deciding factor), I’m sure it would not take a lot of effort to convince local government to give it a try, as local government is always looking for ways to bring in new housing and new business to bolster the local economy.
HOWEVER – and this must be said – if this were to happen, it must be planned and executed right the first time. If it isn’t, it will just be another ghetto. And nobody needs another one of those.
Plan B: Contact the owner(s) of the mall and restore just a section
On a final note, if you’re a business owner that knows a few other business owners, here’s some quick info that may prove to be valuable to you.
Remember that most malls are purposely placed in areas that command good traffic. If you’re a business owner and there’s a derelict mall near you and it looks to be in repairable condition, get in touch with other business owners. If you can rally enough of them together, you may be able to convince the mall owner(s) to repair just a section instead of the whole building if they know people will rent the spaces out.
If you do it right, you may be able to rent a business space on a piece of prime real estate in a great location for dirt cheap.
While true you may have to deal with a crumbly parking lot and a building that doesn’t exactly look pristine anymore, remember the old saying: Location, location, location. The mall is that location.
No matter what anyone says, local business matters. If it didn’t, nobody would take up shop in semi-repaired older large shopping malls.