Near our suburban house is a shopping center consisting largely of strip malls and several anchor grocery stores. This development constructed in the late 1980s has fallen had hard times in recent years with numerous vacant storefronts.
Thus, it was surprising to see the construction that started last year at the site of a former national chain restaurant in this shopping center. This spot had been vacant for several years. The building came down and a new strip mall is going up. The new commercial space has an easy turn-in off a busy arterial road.
I have heard that it is easier to build a new big box store than to repurpose an old one. For example, numerous grocery stores in the Chicago region sat empty for years. Some big box businesses have moved out of older buildings and reopened in new structures not that far away.
The new Chipotle building will certainly be geared toward exactly what this business needs. Additionally, there will be at least one new storefront next to the restaurant. The old building had a different layout inside, one more fitting for a sit-down restaurant, and with on additional commercial space.
At the same time, how many strip malls, shopping malls, big box stores, and restaurants are torn down each year because the space they have is not exactly what a different business wants? What happens to all of these materials? How much time goes into tearing down? How substantially are these shopping areas changed by adding a few new buildings here and there? This Chipotle could have moved into a vacant property within the shopping center.
I could imagine more modular structures or incentives for reusing buildings or asking businesses to adapt to existing spaces. But, if it is cheaper or more efficient to tear down one building and redevelop another, then that is what businesses will do.