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  • Writer's pictureMike Entner

Turning Abandoned Shopping Malls into Affordable High Tech Housing Gold

By Michael Entner-Gómez | Digital Transformation Officer | Entner Consulting Group, LLC.

A recent New York Times article (The N.Y.C. Neighborhood Where Families Are Filling Up Empty Offices), discussed how five financial district buildings are being turned into residential housing. As a proponent of alternative and affordable housing, I wholly support this move, and I have a similar idea for the suburbs.

Abandoned Shopping Malls Dot the Landscape of the Suburbs

Just as these office buildings are being converted to residential housing in NYC, I believe we should do the same with shopping centers in the suburbs. One mega mall after the other sits abandoned, replaced by endless strip mall constructs. I think we can safely say the era of hanging out at the mall is over as online shopping and social media dominates our lives, and strip malls serve the purpose of shop-and-dash. Currently, we face a different challenge, an affordable housing crisis that could be solved by converting malls into alternative housing.

What are the Conversion Challenges?

Let's think through this. What would it look like if we converted each retail store unit into one or more living units? While natural light is always an issue, as noted in the NYC article, who cares? We have the technology to overcome this: skylights or light tubes can bring natural light into these spaces, and high-resolution LED panels can create faux windows. Imagine, with these panels, you could wake up to a view of Tahiti one day and Montana the next. We know the essentials like plumbing and electricity are already in place - remember those restrooms that are supposedly not for public use? They're there. The transformation would also involve changing the glass storefronts to privacy walls for a more residential feel.

Community at the Core of the Proposal

Now, from a community perspective, we're also covered. Think about the common spaces in these malls – they can be converted into playgrounds, indoor pools, rock walls, or running tracks, fostering a sense of community. The existing infrastructure can easily accommodate essential services like libraries, professional offices, restaurants, and markets. We could even introduce shared spaces similar to WeWork for residents to gather and innovate.

Maximizing the Outdoor Space

Parking, often ample in these locations, presents an additional opportunity. This space can be leveraged to build solar farms, dog parks, ancillary units, green spaces and community gardens. As a bonus, by creating these mini-cities of life, work, and play, we reduce environmental impact by repurposing existing structures, moving people into more community-oriented living constructs.

Pivot Towards Sustainability

This vision of repurposing retail spaces into residential and community areas not only addresses the decline of traditional retail but also presents an innovative approach to urban living. It's a sustainable, community-focused solution that can rejuvenate our urban landscapes.

Let's do it!

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