The popularity of e-commerce is growing, and you only have to look at how convenient the Internet makes shopping for clues as to why. Not only is it easy to search for exactly what you want, but you can also compare the best prices and read reviews to ensure you get what’s right for you. In 2011, online shoppers in the US spent $202 billion, and that number is expected to grow to $327 billion by 2016. This may well lead to shopping malls taking a big hit.
In late 2012, the International Council of Shopping Centers stated, “Online is clearly taking share from brick and mortar… [and] this is likely to continue.” These 10 commercial centers might be a case in point. Standing empty, derelict and abandoned, each haunting site seems to warn, “Physical retail outlets had better watch out.”
10. Regency Mall – Augusta, Georgia, USA
Regency Mall, in South Augusta, Georgia was open between 1978 and 2002. It was the first mall in the city, opening a week prior to its across-town competitor, Augusta Mall. However, despite performing well during the 1970s and into the ‘80s, in the ‘90s Regency found itself at a disadvantage because it was situated in a declining part of town and wasn’t close to any major interstates or expressways.
In 24 years of operation, the mall wasn’t once modernized. Moreover, a spate of crimes – including a murder – connected with the mall led to concerns that Regency was dangerous and had inadequate security. By 2001, most of the main commercial tenants had left, and the mall’s administration finally admitted defeat. It was boarded up in 2002. All 75 acres now stand completely vacant, making it an eerie monument of misfortune in Augusta’s urban landscape.
9. Westmount Mall – London, Ontario, Canada
Although London, Ontario’s Westmount Mall hasn’t closed completely like Regency Mall, its current lack of stores suggests that it is struggling. Westmount was first opened in 1971 as the centerpiece of a huge residential community that was being developed. All seemed well at first, with the mall expanding – adding as many as 50 more stores to the initial 15. Westmount was then rebuilt on two levels in the late 1980s, and even as recently as 1997 a six-screen movie theater appeared.
By the beginning of the 21st century, though, Westmount’s fortunes began to wane. Not only did it have two other malls and various big box retailers to contend with, but it also wasn’t in as good a location as the main competition. Perhaps as a result of these factors, retailers began to leave – and apparently high rent rates in the mall may have also influenced their decision.
In 2010, the owner applied for permission to raze 80,000 square feet to create parking space, and a kidney dialysis center was built on 32,000 square feet of the mall to salvage some of the vacant sections. Although the mall isn’t buried yet, it may have to work hard to keep the coffin from being closed.
8. Rolling Acres – Akron, Ohio, USA
Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, Ohio was opened in 1975, and over the course of several expansions, it came to accommodate over 140 retailers. Its glass ceilings gave it plenty of natural light, and it featured a food court, a movie theater and a Toys R Us. On deadmalls.com, Theodore Mallison comments that Rolling Acres was the place to go during his childhood and that it “totally ruled.”
However, in the 1990s, the two other major malls in Akron transformed themselves and their facilities, aiming to appeal to the needs of more affluent adults and teens. This possibly took business away from Rolling Acres, which may well also have suffered from being located near far less well-to-do areas than the competition. Rolling Acres’ customer base declined, and stores began to close.
In time, the air-conditioning was switched off in the summertime and the heat turned right down in the winter. Birds built their nests in the rafters, and garbage cans were set out to catch water leaking from the roof. In October 2008, the mall was closed to the public, and to this day it remains vacant and decaying, old ceiling tiles reportedly littering its interior and plant life taking hold.
7. El Con Mall – Tucson, Arizona, USA
Brad Tuttle of Time magazine suggests that one of the reasons “the classic American indoor shopping mall is dying” is that these facilities simply don’t offer a good lifestyle fit for shoppers. Yes, the economic slump has played its part, but also people don’t want to bother getting in their cars and driving somewhere unnecessarily. Besides, Tuttle says, the asphalt acres of vacant parking spaces are a big turn-off.
In 1960, El Con Mall was opened for business in Tucson, Arizona. Although it is still hanging on, it has been beset by competition from bigger nearby malls, such as Park Place, and since the turn of the millennium has lost several major tenants. A Walmart is scheduled to open there in the fall of 2013, which may help to keep the complex afloat – though the store’s development has been contested by a local Neighborhood Association.
6. Hollywood Fashion Center – Hollywood, Florida, USA
Hollywood Fashion Center in Hollywood, Florida opened its doors in 1972, only to close 21 years later. In 1992, Pembroke Lakes Mall opened a mere six miles away, drawing away most of the anchor stores and likely contributing to the decline of the Hollywood Fashion Center. The building sat empty for nine years, then reopened as a flea market in the early 2000s. However, after it was revealed that a large number of vendors were offering stolen goods, the market shut up shop as well, leaving the premises vacant.
Now the Hollywood Fashion Center is described as an “eyesore,” and nearby business owners wish there were something there to revitalize the area. Still, this could yet happen. According to a local news source, in 2012 Walmart was considering the property as the location for one of its superstores. And although not all residents were pleased at the prospect, it could provide an employment boost, creating extra jobs.
5. Dixie Square Mall – Harvey, Illinois, USA
In 1966, Dixie Square Mall, in Harvey, Illinois opened its doors, having been built with a price tag to the tune of $25 million. However, come the early 1970s the urban area around the mall had fallen into mounting poverty and crime, and several violent incidents took place at or close to the mall. All this, combined with the departure of many of Dixie Square’s commercial tenants, seemed to seal the facility’s fate.
After closing permanently at the end of 1978, the following year Dixie Square had a brief stint as the location for the famous car chase scene in The Blues Brothers – although this left the building in a state of disarray. Vandals, looters and poor maintenance hastened the mall’s decay, and it began to rot and fall apart. Then in May 2012 it was finally demolished in its entirety.
4. Omega Plaza – Novosibirsk, Russia
This picture captures the vast emptiness of Omega Plaza in Novosibirsk, Russia, which is said to have been abandoned in 2000 for reasons unknown. The mall site has been bought, uncompleted, by several firms over the years, and the latest proposal seeks to turn it into a shopping and leisure complex.
In the US, at least, it seems that the era of giant commercial centers may be coming to an end, as no new covered malls have been opened here since 2006. That said, some of those that have lain empty, or mostly empty, are being found new purposes as sites for offices, schools, churches and even wedding venues.
3. Randall Park – North Randall, Ohio, USA
Some developers are attempting to add living spaces to existing malls or simply to convert the more timeworn among them into apartment buildings. Brad Tuttle suggests that if people are too lazy to drive somewhere to shop, then having the stores an elevator ride away from their accommodation might be a better option.
Converting and re-purposing these complexes is surely a better fate than leaving them to collect dust or slowly decay. In 2009, Randall Park Mall, in North Randall, Ohio was permanently closed, after 33 years in operation. The closure may have been due in part to the falling sales that affected its major stores, such as JCPenney and Macy’s. What’s more, if things continue as they are, Randall Park will soon be among a large number of other shopping centers laid to rest. In fact, 10 percent of America’s big malls are expected to fail by 2022, and this is said to be a conservative forecast.
2. Friars Walk – Reading, England
In Reading, England, taking a walk through an abandoned shopping precinct may see you chased by the undead. Fans of Dawn of the Dead take note. In 2012, UK company Wish.co.uk launched the “Zombie Shopping Mall” experience, which pits its participants – or “survivors” – against the “zombie hordes” that have invaded the derelict Friars Walk shopping center.
The participants must work together to decimate the creatures in a number of games, in what Wish.co.uk calls a “full-on ‘run and gun’ gore fest.” It’s an ingenious new use for an old mall that originally opened in the mid-1970s but which, since shutting down in 2003, has been vacant. Vacant, that is, except when serving its more recent purposes, which also include playing host to Airsoft games. Even so, it’s slated to be demolished and redeveloped.
1. New South China Mall, Guangdong Province, China
Don Wood, the CEO of Federal Realty Investment Trust, told The Wall Street Journal that “there is too much retail supply in [America].” And Jeff Jordan, writer for TheAtlanticCities.com, agrees, saying, “America has too many malls.” Given the likely decline of physical shopping outlets, the future of retail could well be in cyberspace.
In 2005, New South China Mall was opened in Guangdong Province. Able to house 2,350 stores, and with a shopping area sprawled over five million square feet, this gargantuan complex is more than double the size of the Mall of America. It is the largest mall in the world – and yet it is almost completely empty, dead almost before it has even been born. In contrast, if China’s e-tail market continues to grow at present rates, up to $650 billion in online sales could be generated by 2020.