Shopping malls may have a chance, if owners reinvent the sites, retail official says

Mall shuttered
An exterior view of an entrance to the Lycoming Mall in Pennsylvania. The Lycoming Mall opened in 1978 with Hess's Department Store, Sears, and Gee Bee as its anchors. Photo credit Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

(WBBM NEWSRADIO) — The shopping mall — retail destination of the seventies and eighties — is entering a new chapter.

Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, likes to say retail’s nimble. But what’s less nimble than a gigantic, largely empty mall?

“If you think of it as only purposed for retail, then I think you’re right,” he tells WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Dahl. “But what we are seeing is that those malls that are less of a destination or don’t have a retail concentration are repurposing themselves.

We’re seeing them become medical complexes. You want to see a group of, say, technology companies together or certain service companies together.”

In some cases, Karr said, repurposing has included residential development.

Because of a railroad consolidation project, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is moving its main office across Springfield to White Oaks Mall. In addition to what’s left of the food court, there’s a car dealer there for employees to check out.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images