Research Projects

Stop the Video

Research Projects

STATUS: In Progress YEAR: 2019 TOPIC AREA: Public transit, land use, and urban mobility Transportation planning, policy, and finance CENTER: NCST

Failing Malls: Optimizing Opportunities for Housing

Project Summary

Project number: NCST-19-01
Funding source: Caltrans
Contract number: 69A3551747114 TO 021
Funding amount: $100,000
Start and end dates: November 15, 2019 to November 14, 2020

Project description

California, as most of the country, is facing a transformation in retail. Increasing Internet shopping, especially the growth of Amazon, and the increase in same day delivery, have ushered the closing of anchor stores, such as Macy's, Sears, JC Penney's, and the increasing closure of regional shopping malls, which have sizable footprints, ranging from 40-100+ acres. This trend offers opportunities for the redevelopment of failing malls to address a pressing needs in California, the need for housing, especially, affordable housing, and efficient transit provision for such redevelopments. The housing shortage has reached a crisis stage in many parts of California, especially in the Los Angeles metropolitan region, which has one of the lowest home ownership rates, and the lowest vacancy rate for rentals in the country (US Census 2017). This opportunity to redevelop failing malls into housing, mixed use developments may be foreclosed by another trend--the increasing demand for in-town warehousing space to address same day, and 1 and 2 hour deliveries. What policy instruments do local or state governments have to promote housing/mixed use, at least in some sites? What should have priority from a sustainability perspective? This research will use a national commercial database to first identify a set of distressed shopping malls ( 4- 6) in the four largest metropolitan areas in the State as potential sites for redevelopment. From a review of the relevant literature and available data and trends, it will assess the sites identified for their potential for mixed use, housing redevelopment, and for improvements in transit access. For the case studies of the distressed malls, the project will develop from the footprint of the sites, and their land use, transit access, and other characteristics, brief redevelopment sketches to identify potential housing units, and improved transit access options. It will also prepare (4- 6) profiles of recently owner-redeveloped malls to determine their characteristics. The study will then develop a set of sustainability criteria to compare the case studies of the distressed malls housing/mixed use redevelopment identified in the study to the characteristics of recently owner-redeveloped malls. The study will also identify strategies that local and state governments could use to promote/incentivize housing/mixed use redevelopment in promising redevelopment sites.


Hilda Blanco
Research Professor, USC Price School of Public Policy
650 Childs Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
[email protected]