General Question

walterallenhaxton's avatar

If most of the stores in a mall were converted to apartments would it be a nice place to live?

Asked by walterallenhaxton (886 points ) May 23rd, 2009
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20 Answers

basp's avatar

As far as climate, accessibility, and proximity to public transportation, I guess one could make a case for it being perfect for senior citizen housing.
Interesting question…...with all the vacant buildings you would think people could get more creative about using them.

dynamicduo's avatar

The infrastructure isn’t really the same. You would have to fit in some small kitchens in the boutiques, or arrange it such that there’s a communal kitchen in the food court… plumbing would also have to be modified. Personally I would not feel secure living in a mall, but there are likely others who feel fine. It would be interesting to create a sort of community inside the mall. It could be done, certainly. It’s just a matter of finding people who want to live that lifestyle.

ragingloli's avatar

too many windows

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I’ve thought that some of the newer strip malls put into our community could benefit from a second story layer of housing. It would make the areas more vibrant in the evenings. We need more mixed use development. I wish someone would bring back buildings where the first floor was business, and the second and third floors housing. Imagine how much easier it would be to own your own business if the mortgage covered business space, and possibly provided rental income from the third floor, not to mention kids being able to come home after school to where their parents worked and they lived. If we are a nation of shopkeepers, it should be easier to be one.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

Let’s see… Large glassy windows (bye bye privacy [oh wait, we have changing rooms])... One huge living room and nothing much else… No door, only a metal shutter which makes an awfully loud noise while coming down.. Communal kitchens downstairs where all the fast food is located.. Communal toilets and shower areas (eurgh)..

Well, at least there’s air conditioning…

basp's avatar

I guess I envisioned it differently. People would make modifications in the existing structure to accomodate daily living. Might put a few out of work construction guys to work doing some remodeling.

They are doing a lot of renovating in our down town area. Putting living spaces above businesses and they are doing a classy job of it.

The results would be reflected in the approach taken.

cwilbur's avatar

I think it would be miserable. Shopping malls tend to be depressingly utilitarian, and built as cheaply as possible. You’d have to do a considerable amount of remodeling to get them to be a pleasant place to live.

As an alternative to homelessness, sure. As a nice place to live, hell no.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

A thought just occurred to me. Dawn of the Dead. Wonder how they lived (can’t say much more since I haven’t watched the movie).

basp's avatar

cwilbur, an alternative to homelessness is a good idea.
The thing is…...at least in my area, there are plenty of vacant buildings…..many that are brand new. I hate to see more land eaten up by more construction when existing sturctures could be used to serve a need in the community.
In our community, senior housing is a huge need and with the baby boomers coming of age, it will only get worse. The economy the way it is, most seniors live on fixed incomes. To suit their needs, they need accessiblity to public transportation, easy internal and external access to the building…those kinds of things.
Not sure about where you live, but, in my area, there have been some huge malls that have less than fifty percent occupancy. I know it would take some major remodling, but, it would make sense to meet a need in the community.
Does it suit everyone’s tastes….? No. I plan to live in my house during my retirement years. But, for the senior who lives in a leaky trailer that bakes in the 110 degree heat in the summer and has sporatic transportation into town, it might be a good alternative.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I live in an urban area and rarely frequent malls, but my mom would have loved living at the mall. She would be able to walk around and look at things, people watch, talk to people, look at babies in strollers. She is not the sort of person that cultivates sustainable relationships, and as a result needs superficial relationships for social contacts (and always has.) It would not take living in a trailer to make this appealing.

There are more disconnected, isolated people in suburban areas than you would think.

walterallenhaxton's avatar

Nothing suits everybody but for those it suits I am certain that malls would be good. You could walk to the store for most of your needs and the parking lot would have to be considered as available for living space as well. Residential living uses less parking than retail does. I think it would make a nice small town in a city environment. A good neighborhood to live in. Of course it would take work. Living takes work. I think that the conversions would use less resources than new construction in the countryside and yield better results.
There are many elderly who will need housing and a mall can have its own medical facilities right there.
I also think that the Mall management going by landlord rules would be easier to deal with than a government. I would feel more secure with mall guards than with police men guarding me.

Supacase's avatar

I’m with @basp. I think it would make a great senior living facility, with some modifications. It isn’t like one person has to get a tiny Ritz Camera (or worse, a kiosk! lol) while another person gets an entire Macy’s. Divide the stores into rooms, maybe set up one of the anchor stores as a facility for people who need more assistance.

There could be an exercise room, a couple of community rooms for bridge and bingo. Access to public transportation would be excellent. The food court could be turned into the dining facility. Residents could come to visit and eat or they could have it delivered to their rooms. And, bonus, plenty of room and access for pedestrians, wheelchairs, walkers, canes and the ever-popular jazzy scooters!

I would love to live there!

Biggest issue I can see is lack of bathrooms. They can be added, but I’m not sure of the difficulty or cost of doing that sort of thing.

figbash's avatar

I think it’s a decent idea, and has a lot of promise but with modifications. Windows to the outdoors and natural light in that space would be key. It does seem like the standard urban malls that sprung up like crazy though, are starting to dry up leaving a lot of usable space that could be reconfigured.

I’m kind of weird about my living space though. How do I explain this…? Fresh air has to be able to pass through the house from all sides or I feel claustrophobic. All four walls have to have either windows or a door to let in light or air. For that reason, I’d have a hard time living in that kind of configuration, but I’m outside of the norm.

basp's avatar

Figbash
Yes, windows or some sort of natural lighting would be important, I agree.

walterallenhaxton's avatar

@basp Natural light can be done with skylights. The window of the stores would do for the outside apartments. For the rest they would have to be digital windows. Fortunately many people would not need outside windows often. There are Malls becoming available. The plans for efficiently changing them are lacking. Doing it all at once is in the 100’s of millions for one mall they are trying to do. I do not think that a total conversion from retail is even desirable. Some of the big stores could be even used by contractors and as warehouses. I know that we have places now for those operations but there are advantages in being close to your employees. Communities where there is only one age group are not desirable to everyone. They become crime magnets. I find that one of the keys to a successful community is diversity. As the landlord I would rent to those who came to me to rent and if they caused trouble I would evict them.
I think that the key to a successful operation is to start small and grow. Let the available tenants determine the use of the space. If it is empty convert it to something you know will rent. Efficiencies with shared kitchen and bathroom space could be most efficient. I would also look into the insulation of the building to make it very efficient to heat and cool.
It would be fun to do.

basp's avatar

Walterallenhaxton, you make good points, however, senior communities have been extremely successful in the past couple of decades. Depending on the area, many have paid patrols or some sort of security arrangement. Even if malls are not used for residential living, there are other good ways to use that resource, as you point out.
Interesting article, thanks for the link.

LostInParadise's avatar

I am hoping that the economic downturn has permanent repercussions, causing us to travel less, cut down on suburban sprawl and cut back on malls. It would mean living in real towns and (gasp!) getting to know your neighbors. Having housing over shops, as mentioned by @PandoraBoxx , used to be common and may make a comeback. There has been a lot of talk on these issues in what has been referred to as the New Urbanism.
http://www.newurbanism.org/

walterallenhaxton's avatar

@basp The seniors retirement funds have been wiped out and they will be in need of places to stay that they can afford. I know that some have paid a lot of money to stay in those places. I suspect that a lot of that money was invested as well and is gone too. Those places can go broke too and renege on their contracts.
I am just being a survivalist. When the great inflation hits we will be able to afford little.

walterallenhaxton's avatar

@LostInParadise Malls are one way to include shops with living. There is no reason why the halls need to be at the same temperature as the living quarters. Another way to save energy. I also suspect that they would not be as wide to take advantage of the space for rentals.

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