Online shopping is often blamed for the demise of the American mall. And while the shift away from traditional retail environments in favor of laptop browsing has indeed thrown the mall model into crisis, some argue that part of the problem lies with developers who have failed to change with the times, building new malls and letting the old ones go to rot.
Greenspoint Mall in Houston is one example of these challenged malls. Like many malls across the country, this 40-year-old Texas mall has empty spaces where anchor tenants used to be, and there seems to be no plan currently in place to turn things around. A traveling carnival recently rented out the parking lot, which is not a solution to the problem, but rather a sign of how much the marketplace has changed in a few decades’ time.
All Is Not Lost
But for developers with resources and imagination, failing malls can be successfully reinvented. A new wing of The Galleria, for example, is opening with luxury shops and restaurants. And in Austin, Austin Community College recently bought the Highland Mall, and is renovating the space to create a college campus alongside retail, apartments, laboratory space and restaurants.
Malls present not just an opportunity for creative developers who have ideas for repurposing these spaces; they also provide lessons of the importance of adapting to a quickly changing marketplace. Thos who continue to re-invest and rethink their properties stand to be rewarded, while those who hang on to an older model could see their properties sink into obsolescence. In any case, those wanting to develop a new property or reinvent an older one need to take care in the process, making sure to do their research and consult with experienced legal counsel before taking any major leaps.