Abandoned malls are sputtering back to life with megachurches, rooftop pools and homeless shelters

Abha Bhattarai in The Washington Post:

Dozens nationwide have shuttered in the past decade, and a quarter of the estimated 1,100 that remain are projected to follow by 2022, opening large swaths of empty space. “We built too many malls, and we built them too cheaply,” said Amanda Nicholson, a professor of retail practice at Syracuse University. “Only the strong will survive, while the weaker ones idle and fold.” The die-off has created challenges for the municipalities and developers tasked with repurposing millions of square feet of vacant retail space and parking lots. But the successes have taken multiple forms: community colleges, public preschools, churches and libraries. Some old malls have turned into micro-apartments or microbreweries, and at least one abandoned shopping mall is now an Amazon fulfillment center, offering a glimpse into consumers’ shifting habits and priorities.

Here, a look at five ways malls around the country are coming back.

Homeless shelter

At first the idea elicited incredulity: a homeless shelter in a shopping mall? Carpenter’s Shelter was 18 months into its search for a new space in Alexandria when someone mentioned a local shopping mall that had fallen into disarray. “Everyone chuckled as though it was going to be a running joke,” said Shannon Steene, the nonprofit’s executive director. “But now here we are: a 60-bed shelter at the old Landmark Mall.” The mall’s owner, the Howard Hughes Corp., is not charging any rent. Eventually, though, it plans to demolish the mall and replace it with a mixed-use development. The shelter will move out of the mall next summer, when it finishes renovating a former Department of Motor Vehicles building. The shelter takes about 18,000 square feet in a former Macy’s. A Sears store in another part of the mall is still open to the public. Other parts of the mall were recently used to film scenes for the upcoming “Wonder Woman” sequel.

More here.