new lives for dead malls

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There had to be something good about this recession, and this may be it.

The suburban shopping mall has fallen on hard times, and Ellen Dunham-Jones, co-author of “Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs,” is thrilled, frankly.

“Every time we see a dead mall, it’s ‘Yay! Another opportunity to get it right,’ ” said Ms. Dunham-Jones, a professor of architecture at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.


Failed malls offer an unparalleled opportunity to bring services to suburban neighborhoods, Ms. Dunham-Jones says. “The idea is to demolish a dead mall and build the downtown area a suburb never had,” she said. “Three or four stories of apartments above the retail on the ground floor, providing an option where people can walk to most of their daily needs. And they have more opportunities for social interaction. They get a more urban lifestyle, but in a familiar place.”

The International Council of Shopping Centers lists about 1,100 enclosed regional malls in the United States. While about a third are doing fine, a third have experienced reduced sales and increased vacancies and the rest are in financial distress. That’s a lot of real estate that might welcome a neighbor-friendly face-lift.

 Speed the day. --B.D.S.




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