Retail-to-residential conversions are in cards at America’s doomed malls

The coronavirus pandemic could accelerate the residential conversion trend

Los Angeles Weekend Edition /
Jul.July 04, 2020 09:00 AM
Malls are hemorrhaging retailers left and right. What will happen with all that space? Some could be converted into apartments and condominiums. (iStock)
Malls are hemorrhaging retailers left and right. What will happen with all that space? Some could be converted into apartments and condominiums. (iStock)

Mall vacancies are surging, so what to do with all that empty space? Apartment and condominium conversions could proliferate.

Some developers were converting properties before the coronavirus pandemic hit, but the pandemic has made the concept more attractive, according to Bloomberg.

Randy White, CEO of consulting firm White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group, said that “a lot of these malls thought restaurants and entertainment would be their savior, the new anchors.”

“Those hopes are dashed,” he said. “There’s even a question if movie theaters are going to survive.”

Half of all mall anchor department stores are expected to close by mid-2021, by some projections. That would leave huge swaths of real estate vacant and likely lead to closures of other, smaller stores.

Last year, Brookfield Properties partnered with AvalonBay Communities to convert a chunk of the aging Alderwood Mall outside Seattle into 300 apartment units. Around 90,000 square feet of retail space will remain.

A Brookfield spokesperson said the project caters to evolving preferences of consumers.

“Today, people prefer to live in smaller spaces and want walkable developments rather than relying on vehicular transit,” they said.

Last week, the Trump Administration announced it was exploring ways to turn vacant commercial space into affordable housing. Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said that the federal government would work with local governments to facilitate conversion projects. [Bloomberg] — Dennis Lynch 


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