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The Dying Mall’s New Lease on Life: Apartments

As the pandemic hastens the retail apocalypse, some developers are betting that empty malls can mix housing with stores and community space.

Developers are converting part of the 41-year-old Alderwood Mall outside of Seattle into housing — a sign of what might be a national trend. 

Developers are converting part of the 41-year-old Alderwood Mall outside of Seattle into housing — a sign of what might be a national trend. 

Rendering courtesy Brookfield Properties Inc. 

 It’s definitely, finally, without a doubt, the end of malls, right? 

The multiple crises impacting the U.S. economy — the botched response to the coronavirus and the resulting economic fallout, and lack of spending power — have delivered a new gut punch to brick-and-mortar retail, a sector that was already reeling. More than half of all U.S. department stores in malls will be gone by 2021, one real estate research firm predicts, and surviving retailers may not be far behind; once-mighty brands such as Cheesecake Factory and the Gap are skipping rent payments, Starbucks is closing physical locations, and developers see a future for big box stores as office complexes. Banks fear “a stampede” of landlords looking to restructure loans after commercial tenants miss their rents. Last week, the Trump administration floated the idea of turning the glut of empty retail space into affordable housing.