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COVID Helped Put Shopping Malls Out of Business; They’re Being Turned Into Housing—Including Affordable Housing for Seniors

Posted on Friday, February 26, 2021
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by AMAC, John Grimaldi
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42 Comments
shopping

WASINGTON, DC, Feb 26 – Online shopping has been a big winner as a result of the COVID crisis, spiking by triple digit percentages on a year-to-year basis, says the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC].  But it’s had a harmful effect on physical shopping destinations and across the country malls are taking a beating.

According to authoritative reports, more than half of the department stores in malls across the country will be shutting down in the months to come resulting in empty malls.  The Commercial Investment Real Estate Exchange put it this way on its Website: “First, the department store closes. Then, the apparel shops try to scoot out of deals. This is a one-two punch that could trigger a wave of malls shutting down for good over the next 12 months.”

Meanwhile, strip malls, too, are shutting down in large numbers.  “All in all, it’s bad news for the brick-and-mortar retail sector,” says AMAC’s CEO, Rebecca Weber.  “But there are those who believe that it could be good news for the nation’s expanding population of seniors in need of low-cost housing.”

In fact, there are a number of mall and strip mall repurposing projects underway across the country and there’ll be more in the future.  City-journal.org reports that there are currently at least 75 conversion projects on the drawing boards nationwide.

The Dallas based JHP urban design firm points out that: “The decline of traditional retail combined with a housing crisis and increased need for housing makes converting empty malls and other retail spaces into mixed-use developments one of the most attractive options to developers. This type of development combines retail, commercial and residential into one development, known as horizontal mixed use. In today’s world, the demand for retail space is down.”

For example, an abandoned mall in the town of Irondequoit, near Rochester, NY, is undergoing a conversion that will soon provide local seniors whose incomes are under 60% of the average in the community with affordable apartments.  According to the developers the maximum rent for a one-bedroom apartment will be $710 and for a two-bedroom unit it will be $1,023.

Perhaps one of the most interesting cases of such repurposing projects is the conversion of the Arcade mall in Providence, RI.  The Arcade is unique for two reasons: it was the oldest indoor shopping mall in the nation having been built in 1828; and it features what are likely the tiniest apartments of their kind.

Built in a grandiose Greek Revival style, including lots of granite stairs, walls and columns, it was converted in 2015 offering affordable studio and one-bedroom apartments for as little as $500 a month.  However, the 48 units, located on the top two floors of the building, range in size from 225 to 800 square feet; similarly tiny retail shops are located on the ground floor.

As AMAC’s Weber put it, “the price of affordability is size.  Nonetheless it provides renters with the ability to live in the vibrant heart of the city at a reasonable cost and the Arcade has consistently had a 100% occupancy rate and a waiting list of thousands of would-be occupants.”

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Barry Courtnay
Barry Courtnay
3 years ago

This is another way to start to take freedoms from all of us. Not too many small businesses make their monies online. Most small businesses have storefronts. They need people to come to their store and look around. Amazon, Walmart, Target, and many more of these types of stores will actually have less of a payroll. They will not have the overhead they do now. Getting out of the house and going shopping has been part of America, for over two hundred years. Even when the west was still wild they went shopping. Also please look at what these stores stand for. I quit using Amazon when I realized who they donated too, and how they treated their employees. Jeff Bezos was all for mail-in ballots during the presidential election, then one of his stores in Alabama wanted to organize with a union. He came out and said there would be too much fraud in the vote if they allowed mail-in voting. Really! I don’t believe in spreading false news. So I have heard many time’s in the past couple of months about how our government, whats to reprogram us. So what does this mean? This is my opinion if you can put a bunch of people altogether, how much easier would this make it to reprogram them. This is also part of the GREAT NEW RESET. There are people that don’t want any American’s to own property, have their own car, be completely relied on by the government. They are saying this could all be in place by 2030 nine years away. My self I am not ready to give the government that much control. I hope soon we all could be outside playing with our kids, grandkids, dogs, or whoever you might want to be with. I am not going to let this china flu keep me from going where I want to go. If I run into people that really think that masks work I will have one to put one on. The time has come to go back to normal. I can not be afraid of the flu. Thanks

PaulE
PaulE
3 years ago

The trend towards digital retail has been going on for years, with many large malls already facing declining foot traffic and loss of anchor businesses well before the Chinese delivered their Covid-19 “gift” to the rest of the world. A “gift” that the Chinese have yet to pay any real price for given the number of lives lost world-wide to Covid-19. Covid-19 just sped up the decline of most malls in this country by about 5 years in the space of one year’s time.

The repurposing of malls to serve other purposes, such as housing or distribution centers for the likes of Amazon and others is simply smart business for owners of these properties trying to maintain a revenue stream or cash out of a money losing segment of the real estate space. Yes, part of that repurposing will involve the creation of affordable housing options for seniors or simply the broader low income market. That is actually mandated by most states’ fair housing laws these days. A percentage of any residential housing must include some fixed percentage of so-called “affordable housing” (each state defines this a bit differently with strict income and other limits) in order for the overall project to receive the go ahead and necessary permits from local and state authorities.

Rik
Rik
3 years ago

Only young people are more apt to shop online. I’ve just spent a week petitioning the Recall of Governor
Newsom in front of a Walmart Supercenter and believe me, people were shopping in mass numbers every day. I asked a manager if they knew as to how many people average a day and they didn’t know! But he did say that the store averaged $500K in sales per day! And if you didn’t know what a Walmart Supercenter is, it’s a regular Walmart and grocery all in one. I am amazed at the crowds of people and the fact that most can’t Park without having to walk a good distance. People are Social creatures and shopping online might benefit some but the majority want personal interaction.

Charles Slattery
Charles Slattery
3 years ago

My wife and I enjoy and much prefer seeing and “feeling” apparell before buying. We often buy spontaneously. You are never sure what your getting when you buy from a picture and a brief write up.

Richard
Richard
3 years ago

OK, so we’re going to make “Senior Slums” instead of wealth-generating stores. Sounds great. NOT!!!!!!

Joy
Joy
3 years ago

I’ve been saying for some time that what they’re going to do is put all the illegals in the shopping malls that have closed

Turbo
Turbo
3 years ago

Great centralize more economic, hence political power into fewer and fewer hands

Dave VanderZanden
Dave VanderZanden
3 years ago

I wasn’t a fan of malls and big box stores years ago and what they were doing to the small Main Street retailer so I won’t cry tears over this.Honestly it’s not a bad idea. I do respect the opinion of it could turn into senior slums. But it’s better than tearing them all down now that they are up anyway. The price of building supplies are so astronomically high right now it could make for some quick housing. Even though there will be substantial costs in remodeling, the heat, electricity and water are already there. There will be a lot of entertainment options, places to exercise, churches and restaurants. The social aspect is already built into the mall concept.

David B.
David B.
3 years ago

Yeah, put the masses into little pigeon holes- just keep them away from the rich folks.

David B.
David B.
3 years ago

We just returned from a local Dillards shopping trip- and found, then TRIED ON three nice items of clothing that all together normally sold for over $150- cost us $35 total on the “Clearance Racks”! You gonna tell me you can duplicate that satisfaction on-line?

Christopher
Christopher
3 years ago

I still believe the country over reacted economically to COVID by attacking small businesses and leaving places like Walmart and Costco alone. It was a deliberate attack on small businesses by the democrats.

Terrg
Terrg
3 years ago

I prefer shopping in person. I do shop on line but only order brands I know fit me. It’s a gamble. I have to make a return this week. Item didn’t fit. I don’t shop on Amazon. If they have something I want, one of my kids will order it for me and I pay them back. They have Amazon prime. More people should do that with their families. Only one person needs to join to get the free shipping. The shipping fee is also a drawback to online shopping plus hassle of returning.

The Ugly Truth
The Ugly Truth
3 years ago

Most of the malls I’m familiar with have just a few centrally located bathrooms. It would require a major teardown and redoing of plumbing to have a complete bathroom for each unit. I guess our gov’t could “afford” to renovate these giant ghost towns into Welfare Warehouses for the elderly. That is until today’s youth get tired of paying to house old people they already hate anyhow.

Pat
Pat
3 years ago

It would take at least two decades for anything like this to be done in California. It takes at least two years to get a permit for a simple project!

The Ugly Truth
The Ugly Truth
3 years ago

Amazon can buy them up for distribution centers, and others for warehousing of helpless seniors. The gov’t would be paying rent to Jeff Bezos the richest SOB in the world. Isn’t that nice..

Jodi
Jodi
3 years ago

So I just spent a few days in Disney World (Florida) and had the worst time ever. It was my husbands brothers birthday & we live on opposite sides of the state and both have motor homes. We met up in Disney’s Fort Wilderness campground. Not only is everything out of this world expensive like a quick 3 nite stay with park tickets, camping fees, 2 spaces and throw in a few meals easily cost a quick 4k … but it wasn’t magcal like days of old. Masks are required EVERYWHERE! The day in Epcot with a mask in the heat was like going to hell. Hey, a new theme park “A Day in Hell’!! LOL!
I’ve been treated 2 x’s this past year by my doc for sinus infection and after a day in a mask everything on the inside burned. I went out of my motor home in the very early morning hours to jog around the campground and we were reprimanded by the garbage guy to get our mask on. In Epcot the help watches everyone and multiple times reprimanded us for having it below our nose. Only masks that entirely cover your nose and under the chin were permitted and the help was more interested in your face covering then if you’re about to fall over! Some of them to the point of power trips. It was aweful! I imagine it would be like living in a communist country where all eyes are upon you. In addition more of the exhibits were closed, those that operated had lots of empty time while traveling thru them, for example … The powerful presentation on Norway is now ‘Frozen’ with just a few figures singing to you. And that was every exihibit, including the giant Earth ball. The meals were shortened menu and nothing but greasy food, many were shut down. My husband noticed Canada’s restaurant had nicer dining but guess what, we tried to call… impossible… then he walked in and was told we don’t answer our phones, you have to go thru the reservation system which in itself is an ordeal! And here’s a good one for you, my brother in law asked a lady standing around to wipe a few tables in The Crown (outside dining only) and she literally said “It’s not my job”!!! We NEVER had that experience before from Disney. In the Canada display (inside surround movie) they don’t put the lights down so they can see you and she walks around tapping people on the back for pulling their masks under their nose to breathe. I can understand reasonable measures of cleanliness but I felt like a spent a few days in a Socialist country and I really do pray and ask our Lord to guide our children to vote wisely for the future of our Nation. The young people are in control.

Hollowcreek
Hollowcreek
3 years ago

Don’t believe for a minute that old malls will be turned into affordable housing unless they are in areas with declining property values. The real estate is too valuable for other development. What goes unsaid is the huge bubble in commercial real estate, especially in retail space and how it could devastate the economy way worse than the housing bubble that caused the last recession. The developers have been robbing Peter to Pay Paul for years and Covid is advancing the due date on this huge bill.

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