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

"In a sense, [Fashion Square's] size is the problem," says Owen Beisch, a senior director at engineering firm GAI Consultants and affordable housing scholar. "The reason these spaces were designed in that volume to begin with is because they met a certain business model, and it's hard to then divide the spaces up for another retail user where that space would then meet that business model."

There's some irony in the breakdown of American malls.

A generation ago, malls put the nation's Main Street corridors out of business. Now, Amazon and other e-commerce outlets are doing the same to malls. And some experts are suggesting using those structures as a way to attract big e-commerce companies – even if only as warehouse and shipping spaces – to a city like Orlando.

It's one big, vicious circle.

So is Fashion Square on its deathbed?

No, of course not. Not yet.

If anything, Fashion Square is a vehicle to talk about a future in which we're going to have to repurpose these large retail structures on an almost equally large scale, or else watch them crumble. It should also be said that the death knell is sounding for old-school malls, and the future's coming faster than we think.

Just ask Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne, who drove that point home in an earnings call with analysts last year. As Haynes put it, "Our industry, unlike the housing industry, saw too much square footage capacity added in the 1990s and early 2000s. Thousands of new doors opened and rents soared. This created a bubble, and like housing, that bubble has now burst. We are seeing the results, doors shuttering and rents retreating. This trend will continue for the foreseeable future, and may even accelerate."

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