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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Mall Sites as Major Redevelopments?

I'd known UTA had a fetish for connecting to Salt Lake Community College campuses. But I hadn't realized how many malls they reach.

The last few months, I've been making use of TRAX to visit City Creek Center. Last month, I took the FrontRunner to Station Park at Layton. Last week I realized that Valley Faire mall is on the green line. And, of course, Gateway has been connected to TRAX for years. And the shops at Traverse Ridge are planed to get a station in the near future. The Provo Orem BRT will reach both University Mall in Orem, and the Provo Town Center Mall.

On one level, I really like it. In terms of shopping and transit, malls are way more walkable than strip-centers. On another level, I wonder if UTA doesn't have long-term redevelopment plans. Malls in America are not doing well--we built too many of them in the first place, and then Amazon has slaughtered them. So the question becomes: How to re-purpose malls, and their acres upon acres of surface parking?

Business Insider suggests a variety of novel uses. You will recognize most of them as the same businesses that are now making uses of derelict strip malls. Like the hermit crab, low-rent land uses will use any available shell. (Smoke shops, nail salons, and architect's offices are reliable indicators).

But personally, I'd rather see most most of the parking redeveloped. Malls are typically located in premium locations near freeway interchanges, and that's a hard location to beat for new offices. Transit access only improves the location.

Even better would be to phase things. Keep the mall, but remove some parking. Start with a few office buildings (with reduced parking requirements due to transit access). Keep that up until the additional nearby activity perks up the malls retail a bit. Then start adding some high-rise residential: Good freeway access, good transit access, retail/services nearby, and you might be able to walk to work!