Rethinking Dead Mall: Reconsidering an American vacant mall site as a seed for re-growth

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Virginia Tech


The rapid urban development has impacted a great loss of natural landscape in the U.S in recent years. In the process of urbanization, the population has moved from the city centers to the edges of the Metropolitan or the newly developed suburbs as much as 62% until 2000. The annual conversion rate of undeveloped land to developed land between 1982 and 1992 was 1.4 million acres per year while it accelerated later in only five years between 1992 and 1997 to 2.2 million acres per year. Among all the development one of the most common was the Enormous shopping mall in suburban districts which are the collections of a vast range of retail corporations in response to the growing consumerism. In support of the gigantic malls, more service infrastructures were built as in the multi-storied parking garages, surface parking, HVAC.

Currently, the total number of malls in the U.S is approximately 116,000. The downside of the development has been observed as rapid as it has grown. As in 2014, nearly 3% of all the malls in the United States were considered to be "dying" (40% or higher vacancy rates) and nearly one-fifth of all malls had vacancy rates considered "troubling" (10% or higher). The sudden deterioration was caused because of several factors such as the socio-economic change of the demography in the urban context, the change in the spending habit of the consumers (i.e. spending for experience rather than goods), Rise of the E-commerce, etc. While the dying circumstance continues, these vast and trapped places have nothing but negative impacts in the urban environment as being wasteful land, blocking the visual connectivity through places, clogging the pedestrian flow, contributing to the heat island effect. Thus the problem is evoking to rethink a sustainable design approach.

This thesis will first generate an adaptive master plan for the future, in a specific site as the result of investigating the socio-economic issues that forced the mall site to be vacant. After projecting the master plan, the architectural project will be proposed which will prioritize the physical and social development of the context. Educating people regarding the redevelopment of the community and the sustainable way of living are the key features of the project. The new project will be considered an iconic community asset that would serve the neighborhoods.



Dead Malls, Revitalization, Rethink, Stormwater, Suburabn Sprawl, Reading PA, Urban Farming, Community Complex, Suburban Neighborhood, Recreation, Redevelopment, Community Asset