What are we as a country going to do with all the vacant commercial space in America that nobody wants anymore? Capitalism has a solution in mind, and it’s a real tribute to the spirit of reinvention that’s made our nation so great.
Recently I was buying shoes for my son online at the website of a traditional retailer. There was a great deal on shoes for $9, but if I wanted them shipped to my home, I’d have to pay an additional $8.
Fortunately, there was a free shipping option if I’d go pick them up at one of the store’s retail locations. The location closest to me happened to be in a mall.
So I park in front of Sears in the first space because they’re like the walking dead as a retailer. As I walked through the mall, I noticed that every store seemed to have far more employees than customers.
When I finally got to the shoe store, there were three employees and two customers in there. I got the shoes and got back to my car thinking, ‘Wow, malls are toast.’
But capitalism is creative. Parts of malls are now being knocked down and things like Costco, Wal-Mart or Target are being put in the parking lots. The very mall that I was at had taken a fourth and ripped it out and put in an exterior-facing area with seven or eight fancy restaurants. You can’t access the mall from these restaurants because they only face the parking lot.
Across the country, more and more malls are being converted into high schools, medical clinics, call centers, government offices and churches, according to articles I saw in Time and The New York Times. Meanwhile, The Arizona Republic reports that we have 44 square feet of retail space in America for every man, woman and child. That’s a ridiculous amount of space!
The success of America has long been about our ability to take a situation that’s not working and convert it to something else to create a new opportunity. The dying and dead malls will find new uses.
If I were an architecture firm, I’d specialize in repurposing existing retail space across the country because we’ve got so much of it!