The Curse of Zombie Shopping Malls

The shopping mall has gone through much change, and may be endangered.
The shopping mall has gone through much change, and may be endangered.

What happens to "zombie" commercial spaces and, in particular, those dead shopping malls? Is your local "zombie mall" the masked, serial slasher in your hometown's struggle for economic recovery?

The recession has left many desolate malls and office buildings in its wake, and this poses a potential economic crisis. If these malls and commercial properties fail, they could take down hundreds of small and medium-sized banks with them. This, in turn, may lead to reduced lending and even eviction of families from rental properties, MSNBC recently reported.

Shopping malls were particularly hard hit by the economic crisis that began in 2008, as consumers reined in their legendary spending and national chains such as Circuit City, Sharper Image, and Lillian Vernon went bust, leaving gaping vacancies at many shopping centers. Suddenly, the mall -- the temple of American consumerism -- was in trouble. Today, consumer spending is still down and commercial property values have fallen 40 percent from their peak. The landscape is littered with struggling or dead malls.

There are no government programs for underwater commercial property owners who owe more than the property is worth. Has the time come for the shopping mall to be reinvented?

For many people, the answer is yes. In fact, you might be surprised by some of the folks who have publicly rejected the mall concept.