I’ve often joked that as health care consumes an increasing proportion of our economy, in 50 years all that will be left of our economy is health care. At that point we will all be living and working at the hospital. What I failed to predict was that in the future we may be all living and working at the health care mall.
Many malls are struggling financially because Amazon and other online retailers have taken away business from brick & mortar stores. The pace accelerated with Covid as non-essential retail locations faced a lockdown. However, some struggling malls are finding a new life as medical facilities.
Thirty-two malls across the country house some type of medical service within their footprint. Malls with declining retail traffic have plenty of vacant space and tons of parking, something not found on built-out medical campuses. Other factors that make old malls (or former mall locations) idea for medical facilities is the increasing popularity of telemedicine and the growth of outpatient procedures, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review.
Sometimes health care systems merely lease space, while in other instances they rebuild on the land where an aging mall was torn down. For example, in Helena Montana Benefits Health System is building a 60,000 square foot medical facility on the site of a mall razed in 2019.
Hickory Hollow Mall was once the largest shopping center in Tennessee. It’s been on a downward spiral in recent years. That is until Vanderbilt University Medical Center announced plans to lease space for medical clinics and physicians’ offices. Vanderbilt Health began leasing space in One Hundred Oaks in 2009. While the ground floor is mostly department stores, the interior is all medical. It currently has 22 specialty clinics there. You can shop while your loved ones are in day surgery or having an exam. In Charleston, the Medical University of South Carolina is a major tenant at Citadel Mall. Where the old J.C. Penney department store once stood is now clinics and surgery centers.
Taking over retail space at struggling malls should increase the convenience for patients seeking care. I just wish these were all examples of retail medicine competing for cash-paying customers on price and convenience rather than hospital systems taking over retail spaces.
You can read more about it in Kaiser Health News: Shopping for Space, Health Systems Make Over Malls.