Retrofit projects give dying malls new purpose

Approximately one-third of the country’s 1,200 enclosed malls are dead or dying. The good news is that a sizable portion of that building stock is being repurposed.

March 10, 2015 |
Retrofit projects give dying malls new purpose

The Vanderbilt Medical Center at One Hundred Oaks Mall transformed a former 1960s-era indoor shopping mall in Nashville, Tenn., into a mixed-use medical office center for Vanderbilt University. Photo courtesy Vanderbilt University

Enclosed malls may be on the way out, but their structures aren’t going anywhere. A new report from The Atlantic details how creative developers are turning malls that were once filled with shoppers into medical centers, elementary schools, colleges, and churches.

The report cites research by architect and Georgia Tech professor Ellen Dunham-Jones which shows that approximately one-third of the country’s 1,200 enclosed malls are “dead or dying” due to the overbuilding done by developers in the 20th century.

The good news is that a sizable portion of that building stock is being repurposed. According to Dunham-Jones, who maintains a database of mall retrofit projects across the country, there are 211 enclosed malls currently being retrofitted in some form or fashion, reports The Atlantic.

One of those projects is the Highland Mall in Austin, Texas, where developers transformed the structure into a mixed-use community education center after it was purchased by Austin Community College. Now, with the help of Barnes Gromatzky Kosarek Architects, the once derelict mall is a thriving operation, with 604 computer stations, 200,000 sf of instructional space, a library, and offices.

In September 2014, BD+C reported on one of the nation’s most successful mall conversion projects, the Vanderbilt Medical Center at One Hundred Oaks Mall, which transformed a former 1960s-era indoor shopping mall in Nashville, Tenn., into a 880,000-sf, mixed-use medical office center for Vanderbilt University.

The Atlantic reports on other creative mall reuse projects.

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