I’m a big futurist. I think about what I can do to move technology, housing, sustainable living, etc forward. One of the ideas I’ve spent a considerable time looking into is the “city build” concept. This is partially because I think humans are far too spread out. Indeed, I’ve written on suburban sprawl, its impacts, and its causes before. To find out more on that, check out the article on infrastructure spending. While I have worked on discussing a small scale prototype for a city building, it’s still a huge project, and a proof of concept may be useful. A simple option for this is to take existing infrastructure, which is going to waste, and revitalize it. Another is to start an entirely new, large scale project. The latter would be far more expensive, but could be designed for complete self sustainability.
Malls are a dying breed. According to retail consultant Jan Kniffen, 1 in 3 malls in America are going to fail. There are roughly 1,100 enclosed shopping centers that are characterized as malls. That means over 300 malls are doomed. But they don’t have to be. They just need to change their business model. At the core of the mall’s business model is the anchor store. These are generally relatively large chain stores like Target, Macy’s, etc. However, more and more people are shopping online for general items. This weakens the anchor stores.
However, buying local and supporting small businesses is becoming an increasingly popular option. This again places malls on the sideline. Yes; many of the businesses in a mall are technically local businesses, but are they viewed as local? To many people, local means “where you live.” Well, who lives in a mall? No one. And maybe that’s the problem.
There’s no reason why a mall couldn’t attach an apartment building. The size of the apartment building would vary by mall size, but some empty malls are downright huge. It may seem like an odd idea, but it really isn’t. Attach a residential section to a mall and you basically have a miniature self enclosed town, especially if you include service businesses, schools, etc. In this way, many of the people who shop at the mall will feel that they are buying local. In fact, it would be likely that many people who live in this self enclosed town would also work there, so buying things from the mall would be supporting friends and family.
Conference Centers and Hotels
Additional activity can come from a variety of areas, such as conference centers and hotels. Instead of just being a place to shop for a couple of hours, malls could become destinations, bringing up people from all over the region.
Roof Top Usage
One of the biggest wastes of malls is that the flat roofs are not being utilized. They could house solar panels, but they could also house rooftop gardens, which can be used either as a common area to relax, or even to grow food. The average square footage of a mall is estimated to reach 1 million sq ft by 2017. That doesn’t give us a good idea of the rooftop space available, but assuming an average of 3 floors, that would yield over 300,000 sq. ft. of rooftop space. If only 50% could be used, that’s still 150,000 sq. ft. or 3.4 acres of usable space, per mall, just sitting being wasted.