In the last couple of decades, box stores rose dramatically in numbers across the country. With the most recent economic downturn, though, they have fallen on hard times and either closed large numbers of stores or—like Circuit City—gone out of business completely, leaving vacant boxes in their place.
“This isn’t a time that big box tenants are looking for new deals,” The Chicago Tribune quotes Mike Jaffe, a managing member of the Arboretum of South Barrington in Illinois, an outdoor mall that counted Circuit City as an anchor. “Centers that will survive will need to think outside the box.”
According to the recent Tribune story, more than 100 million square feet of retail space has opened up throughout the United States in the last year as retailers have gone bankrupt or shuttered unprofitable stores. The story lists retail casualties like Circuit City, which closed more than 700 stores nationwide, as well as Linens ‘n Things (589 stores), Goody’s (287 stores), Steve & Barry’s (240 stores), Mervyns (175 stores), Shoe Pavilion (64 stores) and Wickes Furniture (37 stores).
An Oberlin College professor wrote a book called “Big Box Reuse” and tracked the fate of Walmart and Kmart stores closed before the recession began. The author, Julia Christensen, found the stores were transformed for use as a county courthouse, an indoor raceway, a charter school, a museum, a library, a chapel and other unique opportunities.
“Hopefully towns can become more empowered and realize they don’t have to accept the homogenous corporate structure over and over again,” Christensen told the Tribune. “As more and more of them are left behind, it means a massive change for our landscape and civic structure.”
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