How will malls, large shopping centres so beloved by American suburbia, resist the Covid crisis? For some, the time for conversion has come.
Some American retail specialists have made very pessimistic forecasts stating almost a third of these gigantic shopping centres could well be set to disappear. A series of major brands haven’t reopened their stores after the ending of the lockdown. A number of major players in the US economy struggle to pay the rent of the commercial areas they occupied in these malls. Other US retail giants, such as Starbucks, Gap, Sears or Neiman Marcus, are considering reducing the number of their points-of-sale.
In Lynnwood, a suburb of Seattle, the Alderwood Mall will be reconverted and the immense space, empty because of the pandemic, will be transformed into apartments. Lynnwood is a dormitory town, mostly inhabited by commuters working in Seattle. It suffered from a serious housing deficit, which makes the transformation of the mall a boon for local authorities.
However, the shops will not disappear from this new pole, as they will coexist with 300 housing units. It is also an opportunity for project promoters to focus on neighbourhood life and encourage residents to mainly go shopping and enjoy leisure on site, rather than taking their cars. This development is combined with the construction of a suburban train that will enhance the attractiveness of this new housing. The Seattle suburb is home to big employers like Boeing or Microsoft.
Other projects, still in an embryonic stage, involve struggling shopping centres: in New Jersey, for example, a deserted mall has become a Prevention Centre for Covid-19. Other commercial complexes should soon be converted into offices.
The ambition will be to create a sense of community around the former shopping centre. This explains why the authorities intend to develop social services and a school near the new housing hub. Because housing, without the social life that goes with it, is not complete.