Article: America is full of abandoned malls. What if we turned them into housing? – Vox

By Rachel M. Cohen
April 10, 2024

Amy Casciani, a longtime real estate developer whose corporation built housing across seven states, watched her local community struggle for years to add new homes.

Casciani grew up in upstate New York, in a suburban town outside Rochester. She eventually started a family and raised her children there, and in the early 1990s, a new mall opened up, bringing over 100 new stores including anchor retailers like Sibley’s, J.C. Penney, and Sears.

The mall was a proud boon to the town of Irondequoit, and a go-to spot for teenagers to hang out. “Hands down the most attractive shopping mall in the area,” an editorial for a newspaper serving Albany declared. “From its blue Legolike entrances and splashing fountain to its light-trimmed glass roof, columns and carousel, the mall exudes carnival gaiety.”

But in a few short years, retail patterns across the United States began to change. Mall foot traffic slowed and online shopping ticked up. Stores in the Irondequoit Mall began to close, and by 2016, the last major anchor, Sears, called it quits.

Casciani ached for her town, which not only was dealing with the eyesore of the abandoned mall but also lacked enough vacant land to develop desperately needed affordable housing. Her nonprofit development group, PathStone, embarked on a complex but meaningful project: They retrofitted the Sears department store into 73 rental apartments and built a new four-story multifamily building with 84 rental units on the adjacent parking lot.