Fashion Square Mall is too big to live and too big to die. What does that mean for its future? 

Mall or nothing

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click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF MIOSOTIS JADE VIA CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE
  • Photo courtesy of Miosotis Jade via Creative Commons License

Indeed, according to the state's Division of Cultural Affairs and regional arts organizations, for every $1 invested, the arts return between $5 and $11 to communities.

One idea for this kind of economic development: Lure Florida's film industry to Orlando.

In recent years, the industry has come close to flatlining due to its inability to compete with the generous tax incentives offered by other states. And considering that launching a major studio in the City Beautiful would require a large, already developed swath of real estate – Fashion Square consists of 1 million square feet, according to the mall's website – wouldn't it make sense to repurpose the property into something cool like that?

Pie-in-the-sky ideas aside, creative interventions for Fashion Square aren't just restricted to the arts-and-culture sectors.

Just look at what became of the Highland Mall in Austin, Texas: By 2010, nearly all of its stores were vacant. But when a local college noticed the neighborhood's wane had coincided with the mall's decline, it was repurposed as a branch of Austin Community College. This reignited the neighborhood in the process.

The examples don't end there.

Earlier this month in Alexandria, Virginia, a nonprofit group renovated and moved into what used to be a Macy's in Landmark Mall. The idea: to provide temporary shelter for those affected by the region's rising cost of living. The temporary housing only takes up a corner of the original Macy's retail store – which, like the Fashion Square outlet, occupied two floors – but it provides as many as 60 beds, as well as enough room for everyone to enjoy hot meals and areas to shower.

We also have to consider that a structure as large as Fashion Square will likely be there for decades or generations to come, in part because these mammoth buildings are extremely expensive to tear down in the first place. So it's not as if Fashion Square's next iteration – if there is one – would be its last. For example: In 1983, tech company Hewlett-Packard bought the closed-down Mayfield Mall in Mountain View, California, and transformed it into an office building, which Google later bought in 2013 to house its Google Glass headquarters.

These are just some ideas for Fashion Square's future. But money doesn't grow on the palm trees outside the mall's main entrance.

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