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How to give America's dying malls the second life they desperately need

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Even before the pandemic, malls in the US faced a doomed fate as more Americans dragged their purchases into digital shopping carts. Increasingly, malls lost major tenants as brick-and-mortar stores closed. Today, the dusty carousels and stock-still escalators of dozens of former malls serve as memorials to the peak of the consumer spending boom in the late 1990s and 2000s.

It's a growing national issue: the world of retail continues to see less in-store demand, accelerated by new patterns of consumer spending online. The surplus construction of malls and retail stores led to a bubble that ruptured in 2017, and now that demand for brick-and-mortar stores may remain depressed for years. For suburbs across the US, malls provided jobs and held up local economies, and the disuse of countless complexes paints a bleak picture.

As so many malls remain deserted or in disrepair and as the US retail vacancy rate hits a multi-decade high, the empty shopping centers that once boosted the US's consumer economy offer opportunity for new uses. There are scads of alternatives that regions can pursue to revive the shells of former malls into productive real estate for communities.

For decades, malls in the US grew in popularity. Even while the rise of e-commerce and online retailers such as Amazon pushed back against the premise of malls in the late '90s, malls continued to be destinations for family weekend trips and teenagers passing time.

But the decline of America's malls, as prophesied by many, was inevitable. Unsurprisingly, in 2017 Credit Suisse predicted that one in four malls would shutter by 2022. Now, in our post-pandemic era, the number of malls closing will undoubtedly be higher.

Mall operators who are able to secure multiple big-name brands such as Nike, Sephora, Burberry, and Williams Sonoma have fared better than those who have had anchor tenants such as Macy's or JCPenney move out. A recent report from Green Street Advisors suggests 50% of department stores will vacate malls........

© Business Insider

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