The Atlantic recently ran a story on the fate of some of the nation’s many abandoned “big box” malls. Their fate is somewhat surprising:
The Highland Mall in Austin, Texas, for instance, was named one of “America’s Most Endangered Malls” by U.S. News & World Report in 2009. One of the first suburban malls in Austin, the shopping center opened in 1971 covering 81 acres, and had 1.2 million square feet of interior space. By 2010, though, nearly all of the stores were vacant.
The administrative offices of Austin Community College (ACC) were located right on the edge of the mall. It became frustrating to watch the anchor stores leave and the area become more and more economically depressed, Richard Rhodes, the president and CEO of ACC said in an interview.
“What happens when a mall begins to deteriorate and no longer function as a mall?” he said. “In the surrounding neighborhoods, you begin to see the crime rate increase, other homes and buildings being vacated—the whole community surrounding it begins to deteriorate.”
The college decided to step in and purchase the mall, with a plan to make the buildings a centerpiece of a planned, mixed-use community. It worked with Barnes Gromatzky Kosarek Architects, who took a former JC Penney building and made it into what Rhodes calls “the galaxy’s largest learning emporium,” which has 604 computer stations, 200,000 square feet of instructional space, a library, and offices.
You can read more here.