More malls should follow Orem’s example and become neighborhoods

Yesterday I reported that University Mall in Orem will be converted to a New Urbanist neighborhood. That’s an objective most of Utah’s malls should be pursuing.

It’s also more or less what I argued back in January, when I advocated for turning malls into neighborhoods — much as Orem is now doing. My point then still applies now: Utah is filled with struggling malls, but at the same time is expecting a population boom.

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The logical conclusion is to take oversupplied mall space and convert it to undersupplied housing space. Walkable, centrally-located housing is in particularly short supply in Utah and the potential of malls to fill that niche is tremendous.

Salt Lake City’s Trolley Square and Provo’s Towne Center immediately come to mind as malls that could realistically pull this off.

But I think the less ideally-located Orem offers another important lesson as well: converting malls to neighborhoods won’t happen accidentally in the coolest or most logical places. Instead it will happen where people are aggressive about redeveloping these dying behemoths, even if those places don’t have a lot going from them already.

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