More failing and abandoned malls are being redeveloped for a mix of uses, including senior housing. One group is exploring converting entire shopping malls into sprawling senior housing and care settings, inspired by a pioneering Dutch memory care community. 

A student design team at Oklahoma State University led by Assistant Professor Dr. Emily Roberts has worked with experienced senior housing architect Jeff Anderzhon to create a prototype to repurpose a vacant, 800,000-square-foot mall in Oklahoma City into a continuing care retirement community incorporating independent living, assisted living, memory care, a medical center and workforce housing

The prototype is still in the concept phase, Roberts told Senior Housing News. But she is confident that it can become a reality in the near future, and believes public-private partnerships are the best way to achieve this.

Reusing dead malls

The American shopping mall of the 1970s and 80s — anchored by legacy department stores such as Sears, Montgomery Ward and JCPenney — is going the way of the dodo, a victim of changing retail consumer habits, monotonous design and shifting population trends from the suburbs to vibrant downtown cores.

There were around 1,100 malls in operation in the U.S. when the Great Recession hit in 2008. One out of every four U.S. malls is expected to shutter by 2022, according to a 2017 report by Credit Suisse. One of those casualties is…

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