What Have the Malls Turned Into?

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policeStation  FamilyFitness

When Virginia Center Commons opened in 1991, it was beautiful. And special. A real eye opener. And a popular place to shop.

Today it looks a bit tired. Closer to dead, truth be known. Sure, the custodial staff does a great job of keeping it clean, but cleanliness isn’t the only thing necessary for keeping a mall alive. Especially if it lacks sparkle otherwise.

In all fairness, the state of the economy probably has a lot to do with the condition of Virginia Center Commons–and many other malls as well.

In a recent walk around VCC, I used a scrap of paper to help me keep count of the number of empty stores. Twenty-five, including three places in the Food Court. The not-overly-large-to-start-with Food Court.

And that’s not counting the decreased number of kiosks in the middle of the various hallways.

No more shoppers than I normally see there on my frequent walks–at least black Friday was an exception–it’s no wonder so many stores have closed. Competition for a small number of shoppers must be brutal. I marvel at the existence of five jewelry stores, several of which seem to have permanent liquidation sales going on.

But some people are enterprising in the way they use the mall.

American Family Fitness opened a full-size place, complete with pools. It began in a limited fashion where an Old Navy store had closed. The building of the full facility took forever. Interestingly, even though the AFF is attached to the mall, it’s not accessible from within the mall. Not even any windows for mall shoppers to stare at the exercise-hungry through.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when a Henrico County Police substation opened in a spot long empty of the jewelry store that used to occupy that spot.

Next came a counseling office. I’ve never seen anyone coming or going there–there’s a solid door several feet inside the glass door–but the fish in the aquarium in the window are alive, so at least somebody is feeding them.

Then came a dentist’s office. Appropriately for a mall, they take walk-ins and are open at different times from a normal dental office.

The government is really pushing Obamacare. One former store now houses someone whose job (apparently) is to sell people on the affordability of Obamacare. Good luck on that.

Most recently came the seasonal use of one store. WalMart–VCC is about five miles in either direction from a WalMart–has set up a number of computer terminals for people to use to apply for work at WalMart during the Christmas season.

If Virginia Center Commons can’t sustain itself in normal ways, may it continue to do so through unusual ones.

What about you? Are the malls near you healthy? Do any of them have unusual tenants? How about leaving a comment…

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