Department Stores' New Lease on Life
Bloomberg Businessweek|September 06, 2021
Faded 20th-century shopping hubs are being reborn as colleges, libraries, and more
Alexandra Lange

Community college

In Texas, Austin Community College has spent more than a decade transforming the former Highland Mall into a mixed-use campus via a partnership with developer RedLeaf Properties LLC. The 50-year-old mall’s J.C. Penney reopened as academic space in 2014 after Barnes Gromatzky Kosarek Architects added a central skylight and glass portico. Design firms Gensler and Steinbomer, Bramwell & Vrazel Architects turned the mall’s former Dillard’s into the headquarters for KLRU, Austin’s PBS station, along with college broadcast facilities and offices.

About 40% of U.S. department store outlets have closed over the past five years. Many of the large, boxy structures that house them, where prom dresses were purchased and perfume sampled, will be demolished. But some will be put to new uses.

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