walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Hospitals and Schools, Coming Soon to a Mall Near You?

In twenty years, children might go to school in the few remaining malls. Thanks to online shopping, physical shops are closing all across the country, and the overbuilt mall industry is looking for ways to fill the space. FT reports:

If the US is destined to lose more shops, mall owners need to get more creative in their hunt for tenants, says Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Cinemas are already emerging as anchor tenants; a college has taken space on the fourth floor of Indianapolis’s Circle Center; and even government offices could make sense. “It all depends on knowing the area,” he says.

Healthcare is another fast-growing part of the economy that could fill up vacant space – and a clinic could conceivably revive the lifeless shell of Danbury’s former Borders. 

Malls aren’t going to disappear overnight, but with 15 percent expected to close their doors nationally, their fate is a healthy reminder that our society is in a period of rapid change. Fifty years ago downtown retail centers were feeling the heat, and cities and towns across the country watched their once healthy business districts wither away. A few cities bucked the trend, but overall American life became less tightly focused on urban centers as freeways and malls spread across the suburbs. Now e-commerce is changing the nature of retail shopping and once more the American landscape is being transformed.

Perhaps malls will stay busy by taking in new kinds of tenants. But even if that scheme works, it may not save every mall. Who knows, the countryside of the 21st century could be littered with haunted, abandoned malls where rats skitter and sinister outcasts lurk. We’ll wait for the first horror movie set in an abandoned mall; if there are any cineplexes left we’ll try to watch it in one.

[Image from Death and Taxes. Click through to see many more.]

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