Can Dead Malls Be Reborn as Farms?

Can a dead mall be repurposed into a community farm? I was watching a TED Talk on dead malls and was struck by the giant atriums in most malls and how maybe it would make a great space to grow plants year-round in climates such as Chicago. I've seen rooftop farms taking off. Of course, this requires a roof that can bear the load. But I've also started to see indoor aquaponic vertical farms taking off, growing things like lettuce and tomatoes with LED systems tuned for super growing. These have been mostly in old warehouse spaces, I suppose for the blank square footage potential. But what about your friendly local underutilized mall? This is pure curiosity. Would it work? The lights of course could be done with LEDs, and getting water shouldn't be too much of a hassle. Live loads on the individual floors? Humidity levels too high leading to IAQ issues? What do you think?

4 Replies

  • This is an awesome idea. With many brick and mortar companines transitioning to online shopping, it makes perfect sense to re-use the existing structure to cultivate sustainable living concepts. Just like public farms, each individual store could be leased to an individual, group or company. Just a thought. with Erie, Pennsylvania getting pounded with 5 plus feet of snow, what are we not harvesting the snow and placing the reserve water in silos or abandoned water tanks to assist areas like California with water shortage issues. It will take months for the mounds of snow to melt. Once the snow starts to melt, can the antiquated sewer systems handle the enormous amount of runoff?
  • Nice idea!
    Technically very feasible! If it were financially feasible, it might already have been more widely implemented. The maintenance costs to the roofs may (to foam a roof of that size in in the range of 200,000 dollars) be the economic barrier. Then there is zoning and regulatory permitting that may become a barrier to indoor farming.
    Reminds me of the talking Heads song, "Nothing but flowers!
  • In reply to Steamlover:

    Excess water taxing the waste water system is a problem in many municipalities. In the Erie case, I would think the large amount of snow slowly perking back into the soil is much better than the same volume of liquid water being dumped on the region at once. Permeable surfaces and water detention infrastructure are important in either scenario.
  • In reply to walts:

    The financial viability of the indoor farming space conversion is a good point. Revenue per square foot is undoubtedly higher with pure retail use. My little thought experiment would probably be most suitable for a truly dead mall.
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