Covid pummeled shopping centers, but their parking lots are thriving

Garages and parking lots have been repurposed for Covid testing, polling stations and more

An aerial view of a pop-up drive-in theater built in the parking lot at the Broadway Commons in Hicksville, New York (Getty)
An aerial view of a pop-up drive-in theater built in the parking lot at the Broadway Commons in Hicksville, New York (Getty)

While many traditional streams of income for landlords have slowed or dried up due to the pandemic, one has proven to be a surprising earner: parking lots.

Landlords of large parking lots and garages have been renting out those spaces for a variety of activities, including open-air retail, job fairs, polling stations and drive-through COVID-19 testing, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Retailers like Walmart and Target are using their parking lots as makeshift distribution centers, while owners of parking garages are similarly renting out their spaces for storage and distribution to nearby neighborhoods.

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Some parking lot owners are turning their spaces over to more creative uses: One at the Rosedale Center in Roseville, Minnesota has been repurposed for a drive-in haunted house. Participants stay in their car and pay $75 to watch a performance from the safety of their vehicles.

The organizer has sold 1,000 tickets so far, and the mall’s landlord hopes that some of those attendees will make their way into the shopping center itself.

That might be a tough sell: A survey this month found only 45 percent of respondents planned to shop in a mall this holiday season. Traffic at the country’s largest malls dropped 51 percent in the first eight months of the year compared to last year. [WSJ] — Dennis Lynch