Empty stores at the mall? Fill them with data centers

Here is one new solution to vacant stores at the shopping mall: use the space for data centers.

In Fort Wayne, Ind., a vacated Target store is about to be home to rows of computer servers, network routers and Ethernet cables courtesy of a local data-center operator. In Jackson, Miss., a former McRae’s department store will get the same treatment next year. And one quadrant of the Marley Station Mall south of Baltimore is already occupied by a data-center company that last year offered to buy out the rest of the building.

As America’s retailers struggle to keep up with online shopping, the Internet is starting to settle into some of the very spaces where brick-and-mortar customers used to shop. The shift brings welcome tenants to some abandoned stretches of the suburban landscape, though it doesn’t replace all the jobs and sales-tax revenue that local communities lost when stores left the building…

Many malls and neighborhood shopping centers are still grappling with vacancies five years after the recession. The average mall vacancy rate hovers around 5.8%, according to market researcher CoStar Group, the same level as in the third quarter of 2009. Strip-mall vacancy sits at 10.1%, down from 11.5% five years ago. Rents are down too. Asking rents at malls have fallen 16% over the past five years, while strip mall rents declined 12%, according to CoStar…

Converting retail properties isn’t simple, however. Data-center operators have specific needs for their properties including access to heavy-duty fiber optic communications cables and reliable and affordable power access. The buildings need to be able to withstand tumultuous weather, from hurricanes to tornadoes. Windows are a negative.

An interesting use of space. Since presumably some of these empty stores are in malls where there still are open stores, how exactly do these new data centers interact with their surroundings? Probably not very well if they are windowless.

One thought on “Empty stores at the mall? Fill them with data centers

  1. Pingback: As shopping malls suffer, suburbs experience consequences | Legally Sociable

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