What’s Happening to Closed Malls?

Malls all around the country are closing. What is happening with these closed malls?

via Wikimedia Commons

Malls all around the country are closing. What is happening with these closed malls?

In 1956, the first enclosed shopping mall was opened in Minneapolis, named Southdale Center. At the same time, another mall called Harundale Mall opened in 1958. These places were thriving places where people would hang out on the weekends. Within the next 50 years, over a thousand malls had opened across the states. But that changed during the great recession of 2007. People weren’t going to malls as frequently, and this caused malls to close. As of 2019, places such as Sears are closing 72 stores in 2019. Meanwhile, Amazon, an online retailer that sells a large selection of items, reached a trillion dollars in worth on September 4th. Many malls are closing, as retailers close their stores. Meanwhile, places such as outlets and online markets are seeing exponential growth.  What caused this to happen?


Victor Gruen, an Austrian Jewish architect born Viktor David Grünbaum, immigrated to New York with $8 in his pocket. When he designed the first enclosed shopping centers in the mid-1950s, he envisioned a communal gathering like the one he knew back home, with a lively mix of commerce, art, and entertainment. This is commonly called a “third place.” A third place is a welcoming area where people could socialize easily. Not a lot of money is needed to spend there, and people could sit down and rest. This is what makes places, like cafes, inviting. Spending money isn’t required, and people could sit there and talk. In the original plan, But when the mall opened in 1956, Southdale Center wasn’t what he had envisioned. Gruen planned the indoor mall to be a little city, with a school, residents, medical centers, and shops. This would make it easy for people to walk around, and not need cars. After the creation of Southdale Center, the number of malls since 1970 has quadrupled. Gruen described the mall as the very thing that destroyed our cities. And he ended up being right, as in the next decade, 50 percent of malls are expected to close.


Outlets, also known as outdoor malls, sell products at discounted prices. According to a survey, people are more likely to purchase online at full price than drive to an outlet and buy the item there. Outlets cut out the middleman, adding discounts to products. A good example is the Irvine Spectrum. On weekends, the place is packed, with thousands of people visiting the center. The site appeals to teens, with stores such as Active and PacSun. Compared to other areas, the National Mall in D.C. is a great example. It fits all the aspects of a third place. It’s playful, free, open for long hours, and is easily accessible by a short walk or public transportation. When deciding which one to visit, the National Mall is the obvious choice, with an open design. Another new third place is online. For example, sharing photos online and chatting with each other has become the third place for some. Access is easy, from the palm of your hand, and it’s from the comfort inside your home.


Many malls are being bought by Amazon. This year, Amazon has announced plans for 23 new fulfillment centers or expansions of existing ones in the U.S. One of them, in North Randal, Ohio, is on the site of the now-demolished Randall Park Mall, once the largest malls in America. Amazon has seen exponential growth compared to malls, and malls are ideal for their fulfillment buildings. Malls were typically placed close to the freeway and suburbs. This makes access for packaging trucks to pick up easy, and makes shipping times faster. Malls also have large footprints, perfect for fulfillment centers. Most fulfillment centers need close to a million square feet in size. Malls also already have the infrastructure, like sewer lines and water pipes connected to the inside. If Amazon were to build a building on a new flat piece of land, more money would have to be poured into piping sewer lines and more.


All in all, malls died due to the great recession of 2008. Technology has also advanced in many ways, and online shopping is becoming increasingly popular. Many malls have been repurposed to industrial uses for large companies. Malls have also grown too quickly, as there should have been only a mall for each major city. The human population couldn’t even keep up with the growth, causing them to close. Anyways, now, these malls are repurposed for better uses.