Would You Live In a Mall?: Turning Office and Commercial Space into Homes in the Post-Covid World

Living in the densely packed suburbs that surround New York City, we are a stone’s throw from a big highway with lots of malls and shopping centers. On the 14-mile strip of highways between my house and New York City’s George Washington Bridge, you can find everything from Home Depot to Macy’s to IKEA to Old Navy. There are malls that cater to rich people who like designer labels, and there are outlets that appeal to those on a budget. For decades, these major roads to New York City have been the home of massive cement structures built for consumption. 

But these malls and shopping centers, like the Egyptian pyramids, are lying dormant and shuttered. They were struggling before Covid, but went extinct when the masks went on. Now, as you drive down the highway, store after store is closed. 

Developers are trying to find new uses for these properties. In New York City, architects are trying to find ways to turn office buildings into commercial space. (Super interesting article in the New York Times about this.) Here too, the plan is to turn the old malls and shopping centers into residential properties. While these new housing units are much needed, especially for seniors and disabled people, there are some worries about whether the infrastructure can support increased density.

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