Date of Award
Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP)
City Planning & Real Estate Development
Dr. Cliff Ellis, Committee Chair
Dr. Enrique Ramos
Dr. John Gaber
When discussing abandoned malls sites, Victor Dover once said, “Sometimes a mall goes out of business because it has lost its economic reason for being. But almost every community needs something. Stop thinking about these as failed shopping center properties and start thinking about them as potential mixed-use properties.” Shopping malls have been, and are continuing to, fail in the United States. Many of these regional centers, which often occupy more than 50 acres, are not being invested in and are closing. The closure of regional shopping malls throughout the United States presents planners and urban designers with an interesting and grand challenge: What should we do with these lots that are filled with large buildings and parking lots that now sit vacant?
While they were once the “go to” center for suburbanites, changes in tastes and disinvestment have left these eye sores as a serious land use problem. It is important that planners find appropriate uses for failed greyfields. A proper retrofit or redesign of failed malls can boost a local economy, provide affordable housing, reduce the carbon footprint within a region, and provide residents of the area with a “third place,” as well as provide an overall better sense of place in suburbia which often falls short in that area.
There needs to be a strategy in place for how to redevelop mall sites when they fail. Edison Mall in Lee County, Florida is such a place that needs a plan. With the emergence, prominence, and continued convenience of Amazon and other online retailers, as well as changes in consumer habits, Edison Mall has begun to decline. Last summer, in a desperate effort to make the mall relevant again, investors poured four million dollars into minor improvements. While the efforts may pay off in the short term, with the trend of anchor stores declaring bankruptcy at an alarming rate, it is only a matter of time before the mall falls like many others in Southwest Florida.
While Edison Mall is currently doing okay, the recent bankruptcy of Sears (one of Edison’s anchors) calls into question the long-term feasibility of the mall’s success. It is important to look at the overall status of malls in the United States and ask the question: What are the most effective strategies for redesigning the Edison Mall in Ft. Myers, Florida? How can we make the best use of county transit and city land while reducing the carbon footprint? And how can we promote positive urban design principles in that redevelopment? By turning the site into a mixed-use, transit-oriented type of development, the site will be able to better serve the community in which it resides. While projects regarding mall redevelopment have been done before, Edison Mall is unique in that it is located in one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country and in an area where housing is quickly becoming more and more unaffordable.
The following literature review will address many questions regarding redevelopment strategies for greyfields. The first section will provide a brief history of the rise and fall of the American mall. The second section will provide some current strategies that exist in mall redevelopment. This includes an in-depth look into mixed-use town centers and how they can be used to bring relevance back to the greyfield sites. Since Edison Mall is serviced by the most bus lines in the LeeTran system, the literature review will also look at transit-oriented developments and will examine what it takes for a TOD to be successful. This will provide direction as to the reality of whether a proposed Edison Town Center could be a TOD, or whether there would just be an emphasis on transit within the town center. Finally, the literature review will conclude with a section that addresses ideas for reducing the carbon footprint through urban design. While it is not necessarily the primary reason for promoting mixed-use, there is no doubt that a reduction of carbon in the atmosphere is a positive externality of redesigning greyfields as mixed-use, transit-oriented developments.
Regnaert, Armand Bradley, "Greyfield Redevelopment: A Strategy for Edison Mall" (2019). Master of City and Regional Planning Terminal Projects. 343.