Abandoned malls get new life as senior housing

Planners are rethinking how to build affordable retirement communities

National /
Oct.October 27, 2020 01:00 PM
Abandoned malls are being turned into senior housing, giving planners a chance to rethink retirement communities (iStock)
Abandoned malls are being turned into senior housing, giving planners a chance to rethink retirement communities (iStock)

As more malls and shopping centers close or see their anchor tenants fall into bankruptcy, they may be repurposed for a new use: senior housing.

George and Pat Ritzinger are among the early beneficiaries of the trend: The couple moved to Folkestone, a retirement community in Wayzata, Minnesota, developed on land that formerly housed a shopping mall built in 1967, according to the New York Times. The mall was demolished and Folkestone opened in 2013.

“Wayzata is a delightful place,” Pat Ritzinger, told the Times. “We can look out on a lake and our sons and grandsons are nearby.”

Folkestone was featured in “Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia,” an upcoming book by Georgia Institute of Technology professor Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson, a professor at City University of New York, that looked into the repurposing trend.

Out of 400 recent proposals to repurpose retail space, 315 projects have been completed or in progress, according to Dunham-Jones. Several of those have become upscale housing for seniors.

Dunham-Jones told the Times that baby boomers want to retire in places where they feel connected to the community, and defunct malls give planners an opportunity to rethink how to create affordable retirement communities that meet those needs.

“By locating senior housing in walking distance of shops, libraries, gyms and recreation centers the housing no longer needs to provide those amenities internally and may reduce costs accordingly,” she told the Times.

[NYT] — Akiko Matsuda


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