The Academy Award nominated documentary “Utopia Part 3: the World’s Largest Shopping Mall” is about the New South China mall, which is the world’s largest shopping mall by gross leasable area. The mall is almost completely empty as only 47 out of its 2350 units are used. Over the last few years shopping malls throughout the world are experiencing a significant decline and the current state of the global economy can only suggest that there will be more examples of dead malls.
There are only a few things that can look more depressing than an empty mall and that’s just one of the reasons why such massive empty buildings should not be left abandoned for too long. The tactic of most globally recognized, budget retail giants is to occupy free standing buildings. If their endeavour on a specific location does not go well, they can just pack up and go. Contrary, when gigantic shopping malls fail, they leave behind huge structures.
There have been dead malls, which have found new life as educational spaces civic buildings or car dealerships. Nevertheless, since their death occurred due to a change in the economy, their resurrection should perhaps be symbolic of this economic change. Thus, an alternative commercial use seems to be the most suitable solution. For example, the dead malls could still have a commercial use but their economic model could be more social and community driven.
The empty retail spaces could be allocated to new start up companies to use as offices, artists can use them as their studios, local fashion designers who can use them as pop-up boutiques and the food court can be used by small local caterers. Instead of paying a set amount for rent, everyone who uses the spaces could pay a percentage of their profit back to a local authority, which would be responsible for running the mall.
I understand that the above idea is so idealistic that it seems more appropriate for an Adam Sadler summer movie than for a solution for the empty malls throughout the world. However, as Oscar Wilde says: “A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.”