When malls die—as so many have these days—they too often end up as sad, empty lots befitting only ruin porn and zombie movies. But a handful of malls have been repurposed for unusual inhabitants, from Christian car dealerships to, yes, even zombies.
When we last wrote about these reborn malls, many of you wrote to point out other malls with similarly surprising fates. (And many of you shared your memories of bygone malls—boy, it was a fun nostalgia trip.) Here are a few more reborn malls, as noted by your fellow Kinja commentators.
Rackspace Headquarters — Windsor Park Mall — San Antonio, TX
Image: screenshot from Rackspace video
A couple weeks before Christmas 1994—in the middle of what should have been holiday shopping bustle—a man was shot and killed in Windsor Park Mall. It was only the latest in a string of violent incidents in and around the mall as the area around it fell into decline. The mall limped along for another decade, shutting for good in 2005.
Around that same time, the fortunes of the web hosting Rackspace were all the rise. Rackspace needed space, a lot more space, and where else would you find it but an empty mall? With the extra incitement of tax breaks and grants from the state of Texas and the neighboring suburb of Windcrest, who were eager to see the area revitalized, Rackspace moved in.
The renovated office space still looks like a mall at times (see: escalators), but it's got the touch of whimsy you'd expect on a giant tech campus (see: slides). Rackspace has proudly renamed it the Castle and opened it up to video tours and Google Street View exploration.
Image: Google Street View
Thanks to juanoymous!
Austin Community College — Highland Mall — Austin, TX
Image: Highland Mall
Highland Mall opened in 1971 as Austin's first indoor mall, but newer, swankier shopping complexes began luring away shoppers in the coming decades. In 2010, Austin Community College bought the property on the old Dillard's. It would end up buying the entire mall.
ACC has since turned a big chunk of the mall into a brand new campus. The mall's concrete walls got a facelift, but more importantly, classrooms, computer labs, and student lounges filled up the old shopping space. This August, the classrooms officially opened for students.
And Rackspace, which already bases its headquarters out of an abandoned mall in San Antonio, has decided to keep going with its mall-to-office strategy: it will now leasing out that old Dillard's in Highland Mall for an Austin office.
Thanks to juanonymous!
Image credit: Austin Community College
Zombie Attacks — Friars Walk — Reading, UK
Image: screenshot from Zombie Mall (below)
Like most abandoned malls, the Friars Walk shopping center feels like the perfectly creepy setting of a zombie movie. Then you notice the blood...and the bullet holes...
Zombies—or at least fake zombies—really have taken over Friars Walk. Since the shopping center in Reading's thoroughfare closed in 2004, the abandoned complex has hosted live-action zombie survival games. One purveyor boasts of the complex's "narrow service corridors, a creepy children's play area, slow-closing fire shutters, loading docks, and a pitch-dark labyrinthine basement." You get an airsoft gun, and then it's you against the undead.
Reading is in England and not the U.S., like all the other malls on this list, but its transformation into hosting zombie survival games was too good to pass up. This is our collective fantasy—or nightmare, really—about the downfall of modern society almost too perfectly embodied.
Thanks to Jimmy Boots!
YMCA — Galleria at Erieview — Cleveland, OH
Image: Canadian Pacific/CC
When we wrote about the failed greenhouse experiment at Cleveland's Galleria at Erieview, one astute Kinjaer noted the dying mall had actually found a more permanent tenant: the YMCA of Greater Cleveland.
Well, hopefully, anyway. Since the plan was first announced two years ago, the YMCA has yet to scrounge up the last $1.1 million for the $5.6 million project of building a fitness center in the old mall. If and when it's completed, the 40,000 square-foot center will include three exercise rooms, a spinning studio, and a three-lane lap pool. You can see the mall's characteristic glass ceiling in the renders below.
The YMCA's more than 3000 members would be a welcome addition to the mall's remaining stores. Here's to hoping this will be more successful than its last revitalization project.
Thanks to RO Thornhill!
Drivers Village — Penn-Can Mall — Cicero, NY
"Penn Can Mall was the coolest place to hang out in the 80s," writes Brian Hamilton of Syracuse Nostalgia, echoing the adolescence of nearly every suburban American teenager of that era. But, as the familiar narrative goes, Penn-Can Mall fell into decline and closed in the 90s.
In 2000, Roger Burdick came along and snapped up the 80-acre abandoned mall. His car dealerships moved in, selling cars Audis to Volkswagens and nearly everything in between. Today, Drivers Village is home to 21 car franchises, the single largest auto complex in the northeast. The abandoned mall location aside, the most unusual part of Drivers Village may be eight part-time chaplains the very-religious Burdick has hired to spread the faith from his car temple.
As far as transformations go, evolving from a mall that sells clothes, toys, and fast food to a mall that sells cars is probably one of the less drastic ones. There is an odd poetry to a dead mall being turned into a sprawling car complex—a mall whose very existence was made possible by cars, abandoned and now reborn as a purveyor of cars.
Images: RSA Architects