Vast Empty Spaces in Once-Thriving Malls Being Put to New Use

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Struggling shopping malls are filling empty department stores with data centers.

Many shopping malls across the country are getting some unconventional tenants. Data centers are moving into large, empty department stores, replacing clothing racks and fitting rooms with rows of computer servers, network routers and Ethernet cables.

According to The Wall Street Journal, many Americans have ditched brick-and-mortar stores to shop online. Stores have closed up shop, leaving vast retail spaces in malls.

“The shift brings welcome tenants to some abandoned stretches of the suburban landscape, though it doesn’t replace all the jobs and sales tax revenue that local communities lost when stores left the building,” the WSJ said.

For example, Lifeline Data Centers plans to hire 10 people for its 110,000-square-foot space in Fort Wayne, Ind. The space formerly housed a Target, which employed 90 workers.

Mall vacancy rates average about 5.8 percent, with strip-mall vacancies at 10.1 percent. Mall rents have plunged 16 percent over the past five years, according to market researcher CoStar Group.

There are other ways to re-purpose vacant mall space. According to ABC News, an abandoned mall in Boise, Idaho, was recently converted to a charter school.

I spent a lot of time in my younger days roaming the halls of the mall. It’s a rarity that I shop in a mall these days. Our small, local mall struggled for years. It once housed a call center, but now it’s mostly full of retailers.

What do you think about the changing face of America’s shopping mall? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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