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If you add housing to malls but keep enough stores around, you create a pool of potential customers who shop at businesses located right outside their door.
There are precedents for this. America’s oldest mall, Arcade Mall in Rhode Island, was turned into a mix of “micro-apartments” and retail businesses a few years ago. It’s working so well they have thousands of people on their waiting list. A more recent example is the Alderwood Mall near Seattle being turned into a 300-unit apartment complex with 90,000 square feet of retail stores.
Architects are coming up with creative ways to repurpose under-used malls into something that has a pronounced “village” feel. Some are designed for singles, others for seniors. Me, I’d love to see one for families, with a great play area and amenities geared to their needs.
I miss shopping. I fear the disappearance of malls and would vastly prefer if we didn’t have to drive so much to get what we need.
We may not be able to save or recover all the retail jobs we had four months ago. But we don’t have to sit and watch them disappear forever. Let’s think about this, and find ways to use the space we already have for those who need an affordable place to live, for the benefit of those who need customers strolling by their place of business.
Brigitte Pellerin is an Ottawa writer.