Are Malls Dead? Maybe Not! Surprising New Uses For Old Shopping Centers


The shopping mall was once a symbol of American culture. In the 1980s and early 1990s, malls thronged with consumers eager to spend their cash on goods ranging from clothing to home furnishings to aquariums. From permed teenagers hanging out in the food courts, to senior citizens getting their walking exercise away from the heat outside, the mall was the place to see and be seen.

Not anymore.

The Internet and its “buy anything now from the comfort of your own home” convenience gradually made malls obsolete. Across the country, shopping center doors were shuttered and their now-empty stores left to decay. Empty, forlorn-looking malls now scatter the suburban American landscape, sad reminders of a different era when teenagers wiled hours away playing at arcades or browsing albums at the record store instead of surfing the internet. Abandoned malls have grown so ubiquitous that they’ve become a common setting in creepy stories, such as in the book-turned-movie Gone Girl.

So what’s to be done with all the gigantic buildings that housed these now-dead malls? Apparently, lots.

Fortunately, developers and problem-solvers countrywide are coming up with novel new ways to put these enormous spaces to good use. Buildings that once sat rotting and empty are now being repurposed in a variety of creative ways. Here are a few of those.

Hospitals and medical centers

Pet boarding facilities


Austin, Texas’ Highland Mall was named one of “America’s Most Endangered Malls” by U.S. News & World Report. That is until tenant Austin Community College (ACC) decided to step in and purchase the entire facility for its own use.

It later converted the mall into a 200,000 square foot “learning emporium,” which includes natural lighting courtesy of a new skylight, offices, a library, and hundreds of student computer stations.


Movie theaters


In Cleveland, Ohio, the Galleria at Erieview shopping center has been converted to an indoor vegetable garden. The glass ceilings over part of the mall provide the perfect amount of natural light for growing produce. An entrepreneurial executive came up with the bright idea, and the conversion began in 2012.

Game complexes


America’s first indoor shopping mall, Rhode Island’s Providence Arcade, was converted to a “microloft” community in a $7 million overhaul in 2013. At just 225 to 300 square feet each, the compact apartments have been immensely popular with recent graduates and there is now a lengthy waiting list for renters.

The ground floor remained commercially zoned, and those spaces are leased to retail stores.


Athletic arenas

Gun ranges


Office spaces

In 2013, Google signed a lease to rent the former Mayfield Mall in Mountain View, California. The structure was converted into an office complex for the technology giant, who gained more than 500,000 square feet of space in the deal.

The Mayfield Mall was the first air-conditioned, enclosed shopping mall in Northern California.

Rackspace Hosting, of San Antonio Texas, is another big tech firm that uses a former shopping mall for office space. The company paid $32.7 million for an abandoned, 1.2 million-square-foot mall in 2007.