Life for Ghost Malls


Photographer Anannya Kundu

Hannah Woodruff

As a medical practitioner, would you turn a blind eye to a patient who’s coding? Your job is to make sure the person under your care feels comfort and receives proper treatment. It doesn’t matter what life they once lived, but what does matter is that it’s your best interest to delay their death. So, the answer is no, you wouldn’t turn a blind eye.

Say you put this same energy into a dying mall. These two circumstances may vary to some, yet they’re identical when a couple of variables are taken out. You might think it’s easier to finish off what once used to be vibrant and alive; however, a close call with death shouldn’t rule out the possibility to start anew. A decaying or “ghost” mall should be given the same attention to avoid meeting it’s end in exchange for renovation. The point is: it’s not dead yet.

But walking past these infrastructures always invites a strange nostalgia. You know, a lifeless mall standing on its own while surrounding elements rust what’s left of it. Unless it foregoes development, these ghost malls won’t stand a chance against this downward spiral. Hence why, refurbishment will bring new life as well as an introduction to countless possibilities from the final results. It’s recycling approached with a constructional agenda.

For the longest, developers and property owners have tried hiding their failed construction projects under the rug, acting as if they never existed. With this form of reconstruction in mind, it could possibly promote members of local organizations and the government to take action for their city’s struggling proposals in an attempt to combat the decay. Not to mention, the fact that malls are often under single ownership also makes the sites easier to acquire and redevelop.

Still, a transformation at this scale attracts difficulty and deep pockets. Giving new meaning to a dying mall places several cards onto the table. Other than finance and property, it’s challenging to decide what exactly this “revived” mall will be. Some prefer to build another shopping center, whereas others aim to turn dead malls into housing for the homeless. A prime example of the latter would be when a Macy’s in Alexandria evolved from a vacant building to a homeless shelter back in 2018. Although it has proven to come with hardships, malls in Philadelphia and across the nation can take after that Macy’s. They can discover another path to survival. They can be revived.