Northgate Mall, designed by John Graham Jr, defined the classic mall look. Graham’s design for the mall spread across the country and has become the standard among many large mall shopping centers. However, Northgate is now struggling to hold onto its former glory days. In the 21st century, hundreds of malls have closed their stores and more are expected to close within the next ten years. Developers see a new future for malls and the space they occupy. Many large mall parking lots have turned into apartments and light rail stations for downtown areas. Northgate’s Sears store, which closed earlier this year, turned into a public library.
Destination Malls, famers markets, walking paths, apartments, and plazas are all ideas looming over the space that large dying malls occupy. Everett Mall in Washington, for example, used its unoccupied parking lots to host a weekly farmer’s market and Northgate Mall transformed its two southern parking lots into condo buildings for residents over the age of 55.
June Williamson, City College of New York architecture professor, mentions that mall retail space will increasingly turn into businesses that have a community-based function. “You’ll find Department of Motor Vehicles, town halls, and libraries in malls increasingly, the type of place where the public government can interact with the public,” Williamson says.
Closed department stores have a chance to turn into other businesses that can benefit from large square footage space, such as gyms, libraries, and even medical clinics. In the mid-‘90s, there were 1,500 malls in America. Today, there are only about 1,000 malls left and this number is expected to decrease as consumers continue to abandon the once classic form of shopping seen throughout the days of the 20th century.