The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Repurpose malls for affordable senior housing

The closed Landmark Mall in Alexandria.
The closed Landmark Mall in Alexandria. (Allison Shelley/For The Washington Post)
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The Nov. 24 Business articles on “The mall, reinvented” discussed the slow death of the American shopping mall and some of the ways that old malls are being given new life by repurposing them into megachurches, medical clinics and homeless shelters. Not mentioned is the innovative idea of repurposing malls to include housing for the avalanche of baby boomers — especially those who cannot afford the glitzy 55-plus communities. Furthermore, many boomers wish to remain among people of all ages and live in a walkable environment. A repurposed shopping mall would address all of these needs.

There is already a model in the works — Griffin Plaza in Simi Valley, Calif. — that is scheduled for completion at the end of this year. Affordable senior housing is built within a shopping mall that was in decline. Restaurants, a fitness center, a hair salon and a pharmacy are in the mall rather than built into the retirement home, substantially decreasing rental costs. The shopping center has been renovated and enhanced with amenities and improvements that are appealing to the senior residents as well as to the local population. For example, a community meeting hall in the mall is dedicated to intergenerational activities.

Repurposing dying malls by including senior housing solves two problems: saving the malls while providing affordable housing for the baby boom population, which has less wealth and more debt than preceding generations.

Constance Sorrentino, Arlington

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