As the term “dead mall” becomes increasingly common, the owners and managers of indoor malls are shifting their focus away from anchor stores toward “lifestyle hubs” and other attractions. Food courts are now only the beginning, with many malls offering an entire day’s worth of experiences to attract consumers to the area.

For example, at the Southwest Plaza in Denver, Colorado, management recently spent about $70 million on a renovation that created “more airy walkways, better lines of sight,” and a host of attractions including a bowling alley and arcade, a yoga pod, a fitness studio, dining on every caliber and scale, and an aquarium. The result is that the previously struggling mall is now posed to be a “vital community hub,” as the local chamber of commercial CEO described it.

How to Revitalize a Dying Mall

According to Architectural Digest, in 2015, of the roughly 1,200 malls in the U.S. at that time, about a third were “dead or dying.” However, critics of this estimate argued that the national economy was still in recovery and, as a result, retailers in certain areas were struggling, not giving up the ghost. “If you look at a place like New York City, there is actually a lot of mall construction going on,” noted Matt Chaban, policy director at the Center for an Urban Future, in mid-2017. He credited the metro’s “booming economy” for the new retail construction.

While dead malls are often converted to other uses, including call centers, event venues, and even college classrooms, micro apartments, and libraries, a mall manager wishing to keep their mall as, well, a mall will have to take different measures. For example:

  • Installing experiential attractions, such as aquariums, art exhibits, or entertainment venues outside of the traditional movie theater
  • Bringing in new activities that will attract repeat foot traffic, such as fitness studios and other membership-based activities
  • Opening up previously enclosed and indoor spaces to create an indoor-outdoor mixed-use environment attractive to younger consumers and more modern retailers
Categories | Article | Market & Trends
  • Carole VanSickle Ellis

    Carole VanSickle Ellis serves as the news editor and COO of Self-Directed Investor (SDI) Society, a membership organization dedicated to the needs of self-directed investors interested in alternative investment vehicles, including real estate. Learn more at or reach Carole directly by emailing

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